At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
September is “The Month of World Smash” at Film Space.
Film Space is to the right and in the back of the CMU Art Museum, in the Media Arts and Design building across from the ballet school. Showings are in a classroom on the second floor or on the roof, weather permitting. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance – you should leave 20 baht. Well worth supporting.
At Film Space Saturday, September 5: Redacted (2007) by Brian De Palma – 90 mins – US/ Canada, Crime/ Drama/ War. Rated R in the US for strong disturbing violent content including a rape, pervasive language, and some sexual references/ images. Mixed or average reviews: 52/52 out of 100.
Brian dePalma’smovie "Redacted" focuses on the rape and murder of Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi in March of 2006 at the hands of US soldiers serving in Iraq. The crime was well publicized but many of the available images were edited, or “redacted,” to protect the public from their graphic nature. De Palma attempted to showcase the event with these real images, but to his surprise he was also limited by legal binds.
Amazon.com Editorial Reviews, Tom Keogh :Brian De Palma’s ferocious Redacted is one of a number of cinematic protests against the Iraq War and the withholding of information and images about the war from the U.S. public. But it is also shares De Palma’s perennial interest in the relationship between film and violence, a relationship that has changed significantly in the real world because of the Internet, cable news, and the ubiquity of camcorders on the ground in Iraq. In a world more intent than ever on watching everything, De Palma has fashioned Redacted to look like a daisy chain of found footage taken from disparate sources. These include an American soldier’s video journal (which, not insignificantly, is also supposed to be that soldier’s audition piece for film school), a French documentary, a security camera at the edge of an army compound, and streaming video online from insurgents and military families alike. Taken together, Redacted recreates the kind of Iraq War scenes we’ve heard about for years: soldiers kidnapped or felled by booby traps, pregnant women and children shot by American guards at military checkpoints because Iraqi drivers misunderstand orders, etc. With mood and setting firmly established, Redacted then tells the story of an atrocity ripped from headlines in 2006: the rape and murder of an Iraqi teen, as well as the murder of her family, by American soldiers who then proceed to cover up their crime. Meanwhile, other soldiers, well-meaning witnesses to what happened, implode with doubt and uncertainty about what to do. In a way, Redacted is really about the paralysis of ordinary Americans confronted by the horror of our collective misjudgment about Iraq. It's a work of fiction using actors, meaning that De Palma employs a verisimilitude which sometimes doesn’t sit well with anyone who has seen a lot of Iraq War documentaries featuring real troops and real Iraqis. But De Palma is trying to do something very difficult, i.e., make the case that in war, truth really is the first casualty.
DVD available from Amazon.com.
At Film Space Saturday, September 12: Come and See / Idi i smotri / Иди и смотри (1985) by ElemKlimov – 142 mins – Soviet Union, Drama/ War. In Belarusian/ Russian/ German. Not rated, but most viewers agree it has more strong disturbing and violent content than any other film ever made. Generally favorable reviews: 80 out of 100.
A boy is unwillingly thrust into the atrocities of war in WWII Byelorussia, fighting for a hopelessly unequipped resistance movement against the ruthless German forces. Witnessing scenes of abject terror and accidentally surviving horrifying situations he loses his innocence and then his mind.
IMDb viewer: One of the greatest war films ever made.
A.V. Club, Scott Tobias: Produced to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Russia's triumph over the Germans in WWII, ElemKlimov's searing Come and See paints a real historical event as an expressionist nightmare, full of abstract horrors and heightened surrealism. In this way and others, it's the Russian cousin to Apocalypse Now, but Klimov's episodic journey of the soul is framed instead as a coming-of-age story, told through the widened eyes of a teenage boy who wakes to the existence of evil in the world. Aleksei Kravchenko (whose frozen, stunned visage was reportedly induced in part by on-set hypnotic suggestion) plays the only son of a peasant family in the border province of Byelorussia, where Nazi soldiers burned more than 600 villages and massacred their inhabitants.
After digging out an old rifle from a sandy gravesite, Kravchenko joins a motley resistance force in the forest, but the other soldiers, recognizing his youthful inexperience, leave him behind when they go off to fight. His wanderings lead him to a teenage girl (Olga Mironova) who seems almost imagined, but their quiet, playful moments together are broken by an onslaught of German paratroopers and bombs descending from the skies. When he returns to his village the next day, he finds his family and neighbors slaughtered, and he joins the survivors as they're shepherded to another village, where most are to be burned alive in an emptied church.
Cheered on by sadistic Nazi soldiers, some of whom take pictures for posterity, the mass slaughters captured unblinkingly in Come and See serve as a blunt reminder of the recent past. But this documentary-like realism is made all the more powerful by the boldly poetic depiction of war that precedes it. Klimov's dazzling visions from the boy's point of view owe a debt to the first-person camera in AndreiTarkovsky's classic debut My Name Is Ivan (a.k.a. Ivan's Childhood). His impressions are unforgettable: the screaming cacophony of a bombing run broken up by the faint sound of a Mozart fugue, a dark, arid field suddenly lit up by eerily beautiful orange flares, German troops appearing like ghosts out of the heavy morning fog. A product of the glasnost era, Come and See is far from a patriotic memorial of Russia's hard-won victory. Instead, it's a chilling reminder of that victory's terrible costs.
IMDb viewer: Hallucinatory, heartrending, traumatic and uncompromising, such a movie will not to be all tastes. It certainly does not make for relaxing viewing, although those who see it often say it remains with them for years after. This was Klimov's last film for, as he said afterwards "I lost interest in making films. Everything that was possible I felt had already been done," no doubt referring to the emotional intensity of his masterpiece, which would be hard to top. By the end of their own viewing, any audience ought to be shocked enough to pick up a rifle themselves and vengefully join the home army setting out to fight the Great Patriotic War …
DVD available from Amazon.com.
At Film Space Saturday, September 19: Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience (2007) by Richard E. Robbins – 81 mins – US, Documentary. Generally favorable reviews: 71/78 out of 100.
IMDb viewer: "Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience" is an Oscar-nominated documentary made up almost entirely of journal entries and poems written by soldiers and marines in combat. Operation Homecoming was a program developed by the National Endowment for the Arts in which distinguished authors were sent to military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan to teach soldiers and their families how to capture their experiences of war on paper. Ultimately, thousands of pages worth of personal reflections, in the form of essays, anecdotes and poems, were submitted to the project, only a very small handful of which could, by necessity, find their way into this film.
If nothing else, "Operation Homecoming" serves as an invaluable tool documenting what life is like for the common fighting man toiling in the trenches of not only these two specific wars but of any armed conflict. Notably absent from the film are statements and speeches made by military strategists, politicians and world leaders whose views we hear expressed ad infinitum and ad nauseam throughout the course of any military action. In their place are the thoughts and words of the men and women on the front lines, who day after day confront the actual face of war.
Through their essays and poems, these authors convey, with tremendous eloquence and insight, just what it means to live in near-constant fear of being injured or killed; or to see one's friends and comrades fall under a hail of bullets or be blown to smithereens by a detonated explosive; or to wrestle with the guilt of having snuffed out a fellow human being's life despite the fact that you've been raised from infancy to believe killing is wrong. As have many authors before them (Stephen Crane in "The Red Badge of Courage" comes first to mind), some of these writers show how the heroic idealism of a pre-war mindset can be instantly shattered when confronted with the brutal reality of life on the battlefield. For some, the writing has become almost a form of therapy, allowing them to process the experience in the hopes of eventually coming to terms with it all - if that's even possible.
The movie provides battle footage, still photos, staged reenactments and animation sequences, along with interviews with the actual writers and other authors on the subject (i.e., Anthony Swofford, Tobias Wolff) to visually complement and supplement the readings, which are delivered respectfully and movingly by such trained actors as Robert Duvall, Beau Bridges and Aaron Eckhart.
DVD available from Amazon.com.