The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, October 28-November 3

face in the crowd griffith

A Face in the Crowd (1957)
Directed by Elia Kazan
Certainly, Kazan and screenwriter Budd Schulberg’s attack on media demagoguery remains as scalding as ever, especially with the emerging ubiquity of social media leading us to be as conscious as ever of public image. But even more startling than the film’s continuing relevance is its potency as nuanced drama. This is not a simplistic tale of innocents corrupted by unchecked power. Larry Rhodes (Andy Griffith)—dubbed “Lonesome” by well-meaning radio producer/host Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal)—has his manipulative gears turning from the get-go, immediately asking about his reward for being on Marcia’s show. His womanizing ways are also apparent early on in his creepy attempts to seduce Marcia—but Marcia, as caught up in Rhodes’s outsize everyman charisma as the rest of the American audience, willingly turns a blind eye to his most disturbing tendencies until she becomes a victim herself. “Lonesome” Rhodes’s rise and fall aside, it’s Marcia’s arc—her constant push-pull between recalling the refreshing populist Rhodes once was, and rejecting the power-hungry celebrity he has become—that stays in the memory more than the self-righteous (if justifiably so) castigating of journalist Mel Miller (Walter Matthau), with Neal turning the moment she decides to finally bottle up the out-of-control phenomenon she helped create into a devastating aria of agonized self-loathing and newly discovered resolve. Kenji Fujishima (November 1, 4pm, 6:45pm, 9:30pm at BAM’s “Behind the Mask: Bamboozled in Focus”)

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