Friday, June 7, 2013

The Manchurian Candidate

In this remake of John Frankenheimer's exemplary 1962 original, not much has changed: Denzel takes over for Sinatra, the commies are now terrorists funded by a shadowy global economic group, and Raymond Shaw still has mommie issues in the worst way. Jonathan Demme's The Manchurian Candidate calls to mind an obvious question and one he should have answered the first time he did a disservice to a class with The Truth About Charlie which is why remake a classic, especially one like Franenheimer's which may have been as perfect as any movie has been? Watching this film (which is well made to its credit) I couldn't help measuring it up to the original: Liev Shreiber is no Laurence Harvey, Kimblerly Elise is a horrid replacement for Janet Leigh, and even Meryl Streep can't match Angela Lansbury's icy malevolence. I did find Denzel's work to be solid. I am not sure if Demme drew from the original screenplay, from Richard Condon's novel, or went off on his own tangent, but more is explained but even less is gained. Demme is a an excellent filmmaker who has made some great works in several genres (Silence of the Lambs, Stop Making Sense, Rachel Getting Married) when he has not spent his time trying to fix pristine classics.