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The Seduction of Joe Tynan by Jerry Schatzberg

September 1, 2013

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The Seduction of Joe Tynan is an underrated film by an underrated director, it is not Jerry Schatzberg´s masterpiece – that would be Puzzle of a Downfall Child – but it´s an elegant dramedy about a rising politician who tries to find his way facing the irresistible allure of the political arena. This 1979 film represents a rewarding viewing for multiple reasons: it´s one of the best attempt to depict the struggles of a public servant, the screenplay – by Alan Alda, who also stars in the title role – is always subtle but never openly judgmental (the way we see it done in political films of today), the performances are very good – a young Meryl Streep is very effective as Tynan´s  love affair, while Melvyn Douglas is outstanding in the role of an old Senator whose loss of power is paralleled with a lost of sanity – and everything is framed by the photographic eye of Schatzberg and his habitual cinematographer Adam Holender.

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Watching the movie today an obvious point of interest is looking at how things have changed from 1979, a memorable moment is when we see Ellie Tynan (Barbara Harris) giving a haircut to her husband, but while the level of accuracy in haircare may be much greater today – not to mention the (social) media exposure – the film maintains its relevance describing the initially naive behavior of the rising Joe Tynan, the apathetic attitude of the majority of his colleagues, the fanatic desire of power of the senator played by Melvyn Douglas and most of all the unsolvable dilemma between the desire for a normal life and the enticing fascination of politics. The subtle tone of the film makes even more powerful its critique of the political world and the final scene – a national convention where Joe is the star – makes it clear that the allure may be irresistible but – looking at the puzzling expression of the reluctant first Lady to be – what good can come out of all this?

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