Orson Welles’s movies have thus far failed to hold me spellbound (yes, that includes Citizen Kane), even if I might occasionally be lulled into temporary hypnosis by their technical wizardry. And I find that The Stranger fails at delivering even such ephemeral thrills, let alone any insight into the human condition. Surprisingly, the film sports comparatively little of the celebrated wunderkind’s characteristic emphasis on style.
Alexander Payne’s acerbically witty satire Election could have been a prequel to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The film points out that American high schools, far from functioning as the nation’s first line of defense against ignorance, are petri dishes for the infectious disease of political power. Student government is this breeding ground, and all who oppose it are—as any crook or liar could tell you—lepers who should be quarantined for their nonconformity. Hypocrisy, thy name is politics.