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Rental Unit

"Feed" offers a glimpse of candidates caught off guard

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“Feed” (First Run Features)

Bizarre. Hilarious. Cult classic.

These are a few of the adjectives that come to mind when describing the 1992 political documentary, “Feed,” which follows the New Hampshire primaries of that year through candid video footage. These are intercepted satellite feeds and other backstage or on-the-street recordings of the candidates, tied together by eerily quiet, moments just before they go on-air. The guerilla tactic provides an illuminating glimpse of their true personalities as well as the showbiz nature of modern politics. And while it isn’t pretty, it’s often funnier than all get-out.

I’ve had a bootleg copy for years, but was excited to learn (late) that it was given proper release by the independent New York distributor, First Run Features. Anyone interested in the sleaze-filled intersection between media and politics should watch all 80 grainy minutes. Directors Kevin Rafferty (“Atomic Café”) and James Ridgeway (a veteran journalist many may recognize from the Village Voice) understood that pulling back the curtains on the process is far more interesting than the typical press junkets or pre-packed media fodder. Their film remains particularly resonant at a time when most Americans view Washington as having more scoundrels and liars per capita than the cheapest Reno whorehouse.

Where else can you watch a cackling Ross Perot tell off-color jokes, Gennifer Flowers provide lurid details of her 12-year affair with Bill Clinton to rabid reporters, or hear a young Hilary Clinton, still with her hillbilly Arkansas accent, defending her husband against accusations then being run-off by a homeless guy on the street? Jeer as Jerry Brown snorts nasal inhalers, Bill Clinton nearly chokes on his own saliva before an interview, or a still young Arnold Schwarzenegger stumps for Bush and Quayle and calls Democrats “a bunch of girly men.” All the while, George H.W. Bush stares silently into the camera like Lurch from "The Addams Family."

While the film is worth viewing as a document and seething media critique, it should’ve had better editing and the DVD should have special features including director commentary and perhaps a “Making Of” feature. Without narration, it does tend to play like an extended YouTube blooper reel. But it still makes you wonder: If someone could have done the same with this year’s Republican presidential candidates, all the Oscars available in the world wouldn’t begin to do it justice.

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