The Candidate

Michael Ritchie, USA, 1972, 109 minutes

What does George Bush really believe in? "Read my lips - no new taxes" he once said rather too bluntly. It is now quite a widely held view that the only principle he holds dear is that George Bush should be President. Hardly inspiring. And while the brief, but meteoric rise of Mr. Ross Perot may not prove to be of much historical interest it was an indication of the depths of the disillusionment of the electorate.

Robert Redford plays an idealistic, liberal young lawyer standing for election to the Senate. In real life Redford is a bit of a liberal (which is a term of abuse as far as most of the politcal spectrum in America is concerned). Anyway, his character enters polities determined not to play the games the media want; determined to say what he thinks when he thinks it. He is a man of principles and of the people.

The Candidate, scripted by a McCarthy speechwriter, was directed by Michael Ritchie. He explores a theme which fascinated him - the costs of winning - the other side of the American Dream ( subject matter which he dealt with in a previous collaboration with Redford - a film about skiing called Downhill Racer which I haven't seen so I don't know if its any good or not). Power corrupts. Even the prospect of power corrupts. And sure enough he is gradually sucked into the media machine as he is transformed into an attractive, saleable package. A message ever more relevant in this world of spin doctors and soundbites. The story might be simple but it doesn't descend into melodrama and the character remains sympathetic and realistic - he is torn, he is flawed, our feelings are mixed.

This is a tale of innocence lost. And cynicism gained. The Candidate is startling because Ritchie refuses to provide any easy answers. He doesn't really blame the individual. Or even the media but simply the seduction of power - the desire to climb the greasy pole.

Review by Michael Morrison
Taken from EUFS Programme 1992-93