Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The dated 60s

I stayed up to watch The President's Analyst on TCM last night. Unfortunately, instead of getting a movie that's a biting satire on the Cold War and the counterculture, I felt I was getting something that's aged very badly.

As for the plot: James Coburn plays psychiatrist Sidney Schaefer, who is called upon to be somebody for the Preisdent to talk to, since the President has such a high-stress job. Hence, the title, The President's Analyst. Unfortunately, the various security bureaucracies surrounding the President decide Dr. Schaefer is too much of a security risk: what happens if the Soviets get a hold of him? So, they decide to get rid of him -- except that he escapes first, and ends up running for his life, chased after by spies from multiple countries.

The plot, on the face of it, doesn't sound so bad. And yet, I found something quite off in the execution. Not only was I getting something from the hippie era (which in and of itself doesn't necessarily make for a bad movie), I felt as though it was stuck in the hippie era, and wasn't translating well to 2008. And yet, other, earlier movies don't feel similarly dated, even those that deal with politics. Why is that?

I'm not quite certain, but my first guess would be that The President's Analyst is in color. There's something about the less-vibrant color from after the mid-1950s that doesn't fit in all that well today, while black and white seems timeless. One, Two, Three deals with the Cold War, and yet, it's still quite the farce today. Likewise with Ninotchka, which also involves Soviet agents, in an even earlier era.

And yet, there are other color movies that still play well in 2008. I've recommended Yours, Mine, and Ours, which clearly shows the styles of the 1960s, and yet retains an air of being an evergreen. As I mentioned about Yours, Mine, and Ours, it deals with topics that are always relevant -- love and dealing with new relatives -- and does it with dignity and class.

However, there are movies involving characters much closer to hippies that still fit in in 2008; much of the humor of Cactus Flower revolves around the idea that there's a generation gap going on between the two couples. But there's always been a generation gap.

So, perhaps it's just that The President's Analyst is trying too hard to be hip. There are quite a few movies from the 1960s that give off the vibe that this is what happens when the stuffy studio executives try to develop a plot that will appeal to the hip youngsters of today. Instead, what you get is the older people's caricature of youth, with the same profound unfunniness.

Or, perhaps it's just me. I wasn't around for that era, and to be honest, I've long been sick and tired of the idea that every event today has to be filtered through a prism of events that happened between the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the resignation of Richard Nixon. And perhaps that clouds my view of the movies and other culture of that era. What say ye, fans of The President's Analyst?

(The movie is also available on DVD, in case you haven't seen it and would like to judge for yourself.)

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