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Bob Roberts (Tim Robbins) is corrupt rightwing folksinger who runs a crooked election campaign while an independent muck-raking reporter Bugs Raplin (Giancarlo Esposito) tries to stop him.

Tim Robbins begins the Bob Roberts audio commentary by announcing that his first film as director has been "buried by the people that own it." His fearless commentary alone is worth the rental fee or purchase price as he lays down some frank truths about the chequered distribution history of his scathing attack on American politics.

Influenced by Robert Altman, D.A. Pennebakerís Bob Dylan documentary Donít Look Back (1967) and This Is Spinal Tap (1981), Robbins wrote, directed and stars as the conservative folk singer-turned senatorial candidate whom we follow on the campaign trail in Pennsylvania. Robbins creates a multilayered depiction of this world where issues have become subservient to packaging, mud slinging and lowest common denominator emotional triggers.

Whatís glimpsed in the background and overhead in off-camera dialogue is often as entertaining and revealing as whatís in the centre of frame as image-savvy Roberts sings his reactionary messages to the masses while attempting to oust long-term incumbent Sen. Brickley Paiste (Gore Vidal) who believes in old fashioned values like compassion, accountability and idealism. The son of bohemian parents, Roberts prefers to call the 60ís "a dark sting on American history." Peppered throughout are a series of bitingly satirical Bob Roberts music videos, the most telling of which is "The Wall Street Rap"óa sardonic, "greed is good" twist on Bob Dylanís famous "Subterranean Homesick Blues" clip.

Thereís also a conspiracy theory involving journalist Bugs Raplin (Giancarlo Esposito) whoís determined to expose the role of Robertís shadowy campaign manager Lukas Hart III (a deliciously evil Alan Rickman) in a drug and arms smuggling scandal. Thought provoking and darkly funny, Bob Roberts is a worthy stablemate of better known political satires of the 90s like Primary Colors and Wag The Dog. The twenty minutes of out-takes are a treat but best of all is the Robbins/Vidal audio commentaryóone of the best Iíve heard on any DVD release. Vidalís comments about real-life senators of the past laughing at the sanitised view of politics presented in Frank Capra movies (Capra-Corn, he calls them) is just one of the highlights of this recommended release. Vidal once said "Americaólove it or leave it." He has lived in Rome for over 30 years.
Richard Kuipers

Publication Date: September 6, 2001

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You can buy it HERE - next day delivery within Australia


CAST: Tim Robbins, Alan Rickman, Gore Vidal, Ray Wise, Giancarlo Esposito, James Spader, Susan Sarandon, Peter Gallagher, Helen Hunt, Fred Ward

DIRECTOR: Tim Robbins

RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes


DVD RELEASE: May 23, 2001

SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio Commentary with Tim Robbins and Gore Vidal; Deleted Scenes; Trailer. Language: English. Subtitles: None

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