Written and Directed by John Sayles
Screening at FACT from 2nd-8th September 2005
There’s this politician, right? He’s been manoeuvred into
power by this rich and powerful political dynasty, which is just as well
for him because he’s way too dumb to have got their by himself.
When he’s not mangling the English language into barely recognizable
shapes, he’s horse riding with business buddies and consulting his
‘spiritual advisor’. Can you guess who I’m talking about?
Well no actually, it’s Dickie Pilager (Chris Cooper). Any similarity
to persons living or President of the United States is purely deliberate.
And predictable. And not worth wasting your time over.
In the story, Pillager/Dubya is running to be governor of Colorado. He’s
posing as an angler for some stupid pseudo environmental campaign advert
when he reels-in a dead Mexican instead of a photo opportunity. The candidate’s
Karl Rove-alike handler and string-puller-in-chief (Richard Dreyfuss)
quickly orders an investigation into four people he thinks might have
a grudge on Pillager. With cringeworthy inevitability it turns out that
the private eye (Danny Huston) used to be a bit of a radical back in the
day, and he feels pathetic stirrings of indignation as he gradually unravels
the Pillager family secrets. This is doubled when he runs into one of
his old underground playmates (Maria Bello), who is now engaged to a caricatured
Huston’s character deserves special mention, because it is one
of the most unsympathetic characters I have ever seen on the big screen.
Even though he’s supposed to be this big maverick, he never displays
anything approaching rage against the machine. Instead, Huston just pulls
this horrible wide-eyed, open-mouthed expression for 90% of his scenes.
The fact that Sayles just can’t resist linking this apparent political
reawakening to a reawakening of feelings for his ex-girlfriend is just
feeble and shows what the director thinks of his audience’s mental
capacity. It’s even more incredible that Danny Huston is Anjelica’s
half brother in real life. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was
the wrong half.
Though Chris Cooper’s comedy Bush impression is spot on, you would
have to already be obsessively anti-Bush to recognize the references to
his family. So I’m certain that not one former supporter left the
theatre having seen the light. And even if they did, so what? What alternative
does Sayles offer us? Well, judging by Silver City’s focus on personality
over policy and its September 2004 US release date, the only alternative
is to vote for the Democrats. Never mind that they backed the wars in
Afghanistan and Iraq, never mind that poverty grew massively under Clinton,
never mind that their leadership is itself up to its eyeballs in the same
boardroom bribes and slavish dollar dictatorship as the Republicans. No,
just pull the lever and go back to sleep.
This is exactly the kind of self-pitying, hand wringing liberalism that
has allowed the extreme right to seize power in America, because it has
neither the energy nor the inclination to go for the jugular. Sayles and
co clearly think they are being ‘edgy’, but Silver City is
nothing more than porn for people who think that they are some kind of
dangerous subversive because they think Bush has failed to win over ‘hearts
and minds’ on their bloody Middle Eastern rampage. Like the Democratic
Party itself, Sayles refuses to offer anything new or different, so the
film was as stillborn as their 2004 election campaign.