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In response to Edward O'Neill's post about ISHTAR, I remember that the
film's pre-release publicity in the popular film press focused largely
on the inflated salaries and egos of the film's "stars" (Hoffman, Beatty,
May), the perfectionism of Elaine May, and the constant budget overruns.
Such negative advance publicity is usually the kiss of death for a film,
since film pundits (like Roger Ebert) usually latch onto such
"sensationalist" facts and allow them to color their view of the film
once it is released.
 
Yet, I think in the case of ISHTAR this advance publicity only partly
accounts for its lack of success.  On re-viewing the film recently, I
was struck again by its pervasive streak of Anti-Americanism,
particularly, the film's implicit critism of American foreign policy in
the middle east during the eighties.
 
While this criticism is subdued and situated within the the film's quirky
humor, it is nevertheless palpable.  I believe the more conservative
reviewers within the popular press (consciously or unconsciously) picked
up on the film's anti-American sub-text and effected a form of
censorship through their almost universally negative reviews of the film.
 
I think ISHTAR deserves to be re-analysed within the context of the
Reagan/Bush eighties.
 
Bill Elliott
 
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