Being There

Archival Presentations | 1979 | 130 minutes

One of the most brilliant, turbulent, and frustrating actors of the 20th century, Peter Sellers, pretty much gave his goodbye to the world and fame with this 1979 film. It’s directed by the great Hal Ashby (Harold and Maude). It’s a masterpiece of cinema. And though the last scene in the movie refers to one of Jesus’s miracles, the core of its story owes everything to the life of Buddha. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

SIFF Says:

Coming off a near-unprecedented string of critical successes—including HAROLD AND MAUDE (1971), THE LAST DETAIL (1973), and BOUND FOR GLORY (1976)—director Hal Ashby closed out the 1970s with the delightful, resonant satire BEING THERE. In his penultimate performance, Peter Sellers stars as Chance, a childlike gardener who has spent his whole life inside a wealthy man’s townhouse in Washington, D.C. Chance has never ventured further than the garden he tends to, and his knowledge of the outside comes entirely from what he watches on television. But when the wealthy old man dies, Chance is evicted. While wandering the streets of America’s capitol, he is struck by a car owned by mogul and presidential adviser Ben Rand (Melvyn Douglas, whose performance won an Oscar®). Mistakenly believing that he is a wise, down-on-his-luck businessman named Chauncey Gardiner, Ben and his young wife Eve (Shirley MacLaine) bring the injured gardener to their palatial estate to recover and quickly take to his congenial personality. Chance is soon welcomed with open arms into the upper-crust world of politics, and though he is illiterate, his musings about horticulture and popular culture are taken as brilliant political advice and launch him into national celebrity. Based on the novel by Jerzy Kosinski, BEING THERE is a true American classic with one of cinema’s greatest final shots.

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Film Credits
Hal Ashby
Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Jack Warden, Melvyn Douglas, Richard Dysart, Richard Basehart
SIFF 2018