“You’d think that he’d spend his time worrying about China… or Russia… [Shakes head] Hasn’t slept in eight nights, worrying about Libya.”
That line from THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST has always stuck out for me — a slightly smug joke about a no-account country which would become irretrievably dated within two years of the film’s release when Gadaffi seized power.
What’s happening in the middle east is pretty interesting, no? It’s like Europe in 1848. The history of democracy being achieved via revolution is not an encouraging one, but the whole political situ in the countries in question is so wretched that it does feel like any change is potentially positive.
Of course, I love THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST — writer-director Theodore J Flicker (he of the great name) announced his intention as “I want to make the most realistic film ever.”
“He failed!” observes Fiona, regarding his swinging sixties spy comedy.
“And yet… succeeded,” I say, wisely.
I’m a big James Coburn fan, which helps. I’m honestly unsure how good an actor he was, but he was certainly an insuperable James Coburn. A charismatic, versatile James Coburn. The actor came up during my first face-to-face meeting with the Self-Styled Siren. I forget the film under discussion, but she said, “That film made very good use of his James Coburn-ness.”
“– which was his principle quality as an actor,” I added, wisely.
Regular Shadowplayer Chris Schneider recommended HARD TARGET last year, and it’s taken me months to get around to seeing it. This movie, from writer-director S. Lee Pogostin (he of the great name) pairs Coburn with Lee Remick, and throws in Lilli Palmer, Patrick Magee, Sterling Hayden and Burgess Meredith.
The plot: Coburn is a suave hitman who is also the world’s greatest lover, but he doesn’t know it because he only sleeps with prostitutes (cue naked Karen Black), but then he sleeps with millionairess Remick by mistake, after she pretends to be a pro for a lark, and he cures her of her lifelong frigidity — as a result, she becomes obsessed with him and arranges to have him followed, exposing his murderous profession, with potentially fatal consequences —
Yes, that actually is what it’s about. No kidding.
Are all hitmen commitment-phobic? They seem to be in movies. An existential thing, I guess. Pogostin serves up some good discussions, often taking the place of actual dramatic scenes, but his talk is enjoyable. A discussion in front of Goya’s The Executions of May 3, 1808 gives Meredith, as Coburn’s — what? agent, I guess — with his face like a witch’s elbow, the opportunity to cackle and glint seedily. When Palmer asks the moral relativist if he’s saying that murder isn’t immoral, he demurs. “Of course it’s immoral. I mean, to murder for profit like that, it’s immoral. It’s just that, in these times, it’s not that immoral.”
“Are you trying to say that it’s NOT WRONG?”
“Hoho, definitely not! That would be insane at worst; it would be philosophically adolescent at best. Not, it is wrong, I’m simply saying… that in our time… It’s not that wrong,” he says, wisely.
Pogostin, and Coburn’s character, have to find a solution to their dilemma — seeking redemption and the ability to walk away from murder in a genre which demands violent resolution. They fail… and yet succeed.