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Friday, June 10, 2005

tucker: the man and his dream

I finally watched this Francis Coppola directed and George Lucas produced biopic from 1989, on DVD. Great movie making, and a great message to boot. The story centers on Preston Thomas Tucker and his attempts to bring his innovative concept for a passenger car to market in the 1940s, a car which featured many unheard of features such as seat belts, safety glass, a rear engine and disc brakes. A man of incredible optimism but no political or financial connections, he goes up against the Big 3 automakers, who only want to see him fail. The important element of this story is the fact that the Big 3 use the coercive power of the state to crush the competition. It is a story of laissez-faire capitalism against corporatism. A corrupt senator, a partial judge, and the federal executive branch which ultimately seizes Tucker's factory, all side with the Big 3. Not the usual "big business is bad because it is big" line, but an illustration of how big business often colludes with the government and each other to keep any innovative upstarts off the playing field.

The movie itself is a true work of art, with excellent performances from the cast, including Jeff Bridges in the title role, Joan Allen as his wife, Christian Slater as his son, Mako as his friend and mechanic, Martin Landau as his financial manager, and an uncreditted performance by Lloyd Bridges as the corrupt senator. A very effective cameo by Dean Stockwell as a mysterious Howard Hughes who contacts Tucker to advise him on a closing aircraft factory ripe for the picking is one of the highlights of the film. Frederick Forest, Don Novello and Nina Siemaszko also star. The 1940s sets and music, including compositions by Joe Jackson, and the bold, vividly colored cinematography all add to the atmosphere. The anamorphic widescreen DVD itself is of high quality. If you've never seen it, or haven't seen it in a while, you might want to check it out.

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