Matthew Lickona 1:15 p.m., June 29
Jerzy Kosinski's adaptation of his own novel about a retarded gardener named Chance, whose only acquaintance with the world beyond his garden has been through his constant exposure to TV, and who is suddenly turned out into that world when his benevolent employer passes on. There would seem to be infinite ways to go with this premise, and the picaresque way, for instance, would bunch several of those ways into one package. But Kosinski's way is a narrowly focussed political parable about the overnight success of this Tube Boob among the bigwigs of Capitol Hill, and this way has much less bearing on him and the TV mentality than on them and politics. How Chance attains his success could have been much more ingeniously contrived, but Kosinski elects to grease the wheels with fortuitous happenings, evasive dialogue, and a confident outpouring of anti-government cynicism. Peter Sellers, with a Langdon look and a Laurel voice, does a virtuoso solo as the Wild Child from the Television Wasteland, but he doesn't mesh so well with the rest of the cast. Of those who mesh, Shirley MacLaine is the standout as a sexually repressed socialite. Handsomely photographed by Caleb Deschanel in variously aged colors -- faded, yellowed, rusted. With Melvyn Douglas, Jack Warden, and Richard Dysart; directed by Hal Ashby. 1979.