“Public Affairs” (1983)
Henri Pachard’s “Public Affairs” (which he also co-scripted) would have you believe that politics is no deeper than a lowbrow humor which seems suspiciously lifted using the frivolous filter of vague remembrance of the sound truck campaign pronouncements from Robert Altman’s “Nashville”, If unambitious homage can be considered a form of flattery it might have proven to be a usable defense in any legal claims the makers of the earlier film might have made with an accusation of counterfeiting by way of slanderous anti-intellectualism, but it doesn’t excuse nor make “Public Affairs” a more elevated enterprise.
The film follows the final days of Congressman Nicholas Stern (Paul Thomas) who has mounted a Senatorial campaign heavily tilted towards a fervent anti-smut agenda. Given the nature of the film, it is also unsurprising that Stern is an unrepentant hypocrite, a chronic womanizer whose prodigious appetite for sexual unions in which his pleasure seems increased by the degrading of his female partners. Suspicious of Stern’s true character is television reporter Elvira Lawrence (Annette Haven) who employs what is exampled (without a trace of irony) as the usual method of extracting investigative information from a target’s associate: initiating a torridly intimate affair.
Being that the focus of the film is indulgent in extended scenes of hardcore carnality of every stripe, most without relevance to the thinly conceived plot, the chosen theme of the critical moral political posturing poses a problematic mocking of the very adult sex industry from which it is sourced. Since Pachard and co-scenarist Joyce Snyder’s failure to reconcile their willingness to present Stern’s anti-smut message as a positive ideal subject to corrupt betrayal- a message dramatized as embraced with popular support -while taking great pains to enjoy the exposure of the phony moralist (and thus, ridicule his message) creates an insoluble dichotomy from which the film never retrieves its bearings. If the script presented its characters’ motivations with a more serious deliberation, the corruption of self-interest in the face of public interest (it was a powerful subtext of Alan J. Pakula’s “All the President’s Men”) might have yielded a fertile ground for social commentary. Alternately, a strictly comedic approach might be fruitful were it to pointedly illustrate the rich arena of political folly. Unfortunately, Pachard and Co. seem content with capricious follow-throughs on its potentially provocative thematic conception. That the current product satisfies neither more substantial form of dramaturgy is characteristic of far too many “adult” films which all too easily concede to merely stacking the number of graphic couplings as an expression evolutionary provocation rather than any attempt to elicit a meaningful symbiotic sophistication of content between the elements of the mainstream and the pornographic.
To read the complete review, click the following link to: https://chandlerswainreviews.wordpress.com/sexual-politics-in-the-cinema//