4 November 2011

George Clooney’s ‘The Ides of March’

George Clooney has directed four films and has written the screenplay for two of them. I haven’t seen Leatherheads (2008, US pro-football) or Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002, TV producer who claims to be a CIA hitman) and suspect I may not have missed too much. But I liked his 2005 film, Good Night, and Good Luck, which he co-wrote and acted in, and gave an account of Ed Murrow’s stand against McCarthyism in the 1950s.

In The Ides of March, which he directed and co-scripted, Clooney plays a Democratic presidential candidate, Governor Morris, during the Ohio primary (presumably in March) which is essential to his selection. The other key characters include his experienced campaign manager (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and a younger, clever but naïve staffer (Ryan Gosling). The plot follows the staffer’s unsentimental education as to the nature of politics and politicians. I thought it very well-acted, had high quality cinematography, was more insightful than Primary Colors and, reassuringly if you aren’t obsessed with American politics, was less nerdy than The West Wing. The play, Farragut North, on which The Ides of March is based, took its title from the Washington Metro station on the Red Line. It serves the area where the think tanks and political lobbyists have their offices, hence the references in the film to K Street.

Don’t be put off by the fact that on 31 October John Prescott (former British deputy PM) tweeted that he thought The Ides of March was the best film he’d seen this year. This led to a response from Alistair Campbell (@campbellclaret):
Agree with @johnprescott Ides of March terrific film. Clooney good but Ryan Gosling and Philip Seymour Hoffman top drawer.
Something to ponder after seeing the film - surely Campbell isn’t so vain as to be jealous of Gorgeous George, who I thought turned in a well-nuanced performance as Morris? Or are the Gosling/Hoffman characters the ones he identifies with most? Or has he seen too much behind the front of good-looking actor-politicians ? I thought that Evan Rachel Wood’s portrayal of the out-of-her-depth young intern was very convincing (she was the ditsy Melodie St. Ann Celestine from Mississippi in Woody Allen’s Whatever Works).

In France, The Ides of March has been released as Les Marches de Pouvoir - The Steps of (to?) Power. Les Coulisses du Pouvoir (The Corridors of Power) was the French title of Sydney Lumet’s film Power released in 1986 – all about a political consultant in an Ohio senatorial election … Now a cliché, ‘corridors of power’ (probably on John Rentoul’s Banned List) was first used by C P Snow in 1956, but his Strangers and Brothers novels, although certainly constituting a roman fleuve, don’t seem to have been translated into French.

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