*/**** Image C+ Sound C+ Extras D
starring Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Jack Warden, Melvyn Douglas
screenplay by Jerzy Kosinski, based on his novel
directed by Hal Ashby
by Walter Chaw SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT. Arguably the last film of note for New American Cinema director Hal Ashby, Being There (adapted from the Jerzy Kosinski novel by Kosinski himself) is oft-cited as a withering satire of punditry when to me it appears to be more a rather winsome look at the relationship between the artist and the audience. It suggests, after all, that it's not the messenger but the message--that a piece of art is only as important as the degree to which it's raked over by historians and critics, and that if there's a fundamental emptiness, a senselessness, in the creation of that art, then so be it. So long as the conduit is a true vessel for a larger cultural movement (like that reflected by television, for instance), 'gives a shit about the vessel anyway? More, Being There implies that the only true vessels might be empty ones.