DVD review

Chance Encounter

Peter Sellers and director Hal Ashby both hit autumnal peaks in this immortal comedy from 1979. Based on Jerzy Kosinski's scathing novel about a mentally challenged gardener who's mistaken for a profound soothsayer by America's political elite, Being There does a balancing act between magical fable and caustic satire. Sellers plays the gardener, Chance, a childlike innocent abroad whose accidental encounter with a dying tycoon (Melvyn Douglas) and his sexually frustrated wife (Shirley MacLaine) propels him towards the highest office in the land. Despite a few lapses into clumsy farce, Ashby holds his nerve and delivers an incredibly rare example of mainstream US cinema steeped in intelligence, subtlety and ambiguity. Sellers partly based his Oscar-nominated characterisation of Chance on comic idol Stan Laurel. This timeless fairy tale about faith, hope and delusion is ever more terrifyingly relevant considering the jug-eared goon currently squatting in the Oval Office.

Rating: 4 / 10

Retail dvd (warner home video, widescreen)


Newsletter


Editor's Letter

Introducing… Elvis Costello: The Ultimate Music Guide


In June 1977, Allan Jones of the Melody Maker took a familiar route to the offices of Stiff Records in West London. His appointment, that day, was with a notably irascible young singer-songwriter from Hounslow. In the course of a frequently startling interview, the man who had chosen to call...