Modern Matinees: The Body Politic

To celebrate election season, Modern Matinees takes a look at elections, candidates, politicians, constituents, rivals, dissenters, lobbyists, and media pundits in films drawn largely from MoMA’s collection. From the spellbinding intrigue of The Manchurian Candidate (1962) to the biting irony of Wag the Dog (1997), both drama and parody cannily reflect what we see on the evening news. Oliver Stone’s presidential trio of JFK (1991), Nixon (1995), and W (2008) capture the characters of the presidents through persuasive performances—and the cultural zeitgeist as well. While contemporary films may present cheeky, irreverent, or critical portraits of the Oval Office and its inhabitants, classics like D. W. Griffith’s Abraham Lincoln (1930) offer a more reverential, obliging view. Counter Griffith’s take on the 16th president with the effortless comedy Kisses for My President, in which POTUS is a Mrs. and her husband must entertain at tea parties in the Rose Garden. Motion pictures broadly reflect the age in which we live, and that’s certainly true of the films in Modern Matinees: The Body Politic.

Organized by Anne Morra, Associate Curator, Department of Film.