by Brad Nelson
The other day I watched a film that could have been made only in Britain, and even then probably only in the 1950’s: “The Man in the White Suit.” And it’s a refreshing change from the typical fare offered up these days. Even if you are a reguarl fan of old black-and-white movies, you’ll find this to be a somewhat unusual and pleasing type of quirky.
It’s the type of film that is by no means riveting. There is no a car-crash-a-minute. There aren’t bevies of buxom beauties bouncing across the screen. There are no f-bombs hurled every five seconds. There are no Scwarzeneggerian one-liners dropped as the bad guy gets split into two. And, frankly, you can see why those elements are in movies to such an extent these days, even to the point of drowning out plot, characters, and all real meaning. The alternative is much more difficult, and even when done right, tends to be a bit dry.
“The Man in the White Suit” is a bit dry. Not only that, it’s in black and white. Not only that, it’s about a would-be inventor trying to break into the textile business. Not only that, it stars Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), who (although I like this guy) will rarely be confused with Bruce Willis or John Wayne.
That said, this is one of those rare finds of a movie, a “subtle and lean film” as one reviewer at IMDB.com said. You can see Peter Sellers in the same role giving it much more of a goof-appeal. Instead, Guinness gives it much more of a human-poignancy appeal. He has discovered a formula for a synthetic fabric thread that is indestructible and never needs cleaning. And this ensnares you in the best (and worst) of the particularly polarized British class system where there are workers and there are owners, and never the twain shall meet.
Both sides want to squelch this new technology because they see it as a threat to their livelihoods. This film is particularly adept at capturing the instinct of Ludditism and showing the vested interests that are typically aligned against true innovation. I would suggest you see this picture as-is, but it is also ripe for a remake using modern elements. You could definitely see Jim Carrey playing the role of Sidney Stratton, perhaps with a new invention for a perfectly safe nuclear power plant. But the vested interests of the Global Warming “green energy” crowd would try to squelch him.
Well, if you look now, those same interests are trying to squelch all kinds of things in the real world. Perhaps you should see this movie because it will likely be a cold day in hell before Hollywood ever does a truly “daring” movie (although they share the conceit that every boilerplate “social” drama they crank out is daring) and skewers political correctness and environmental hysteria. Until then, there is “The Man in the White Suit.” • (502 views)