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a la Mod:
SHOT OF HANKS REMEMBERING TRAGEDY AS HE GAZES OUT OF SUBWAY WINDOW BRINGS DE PALMA'S FRAMING DEVICE TO MIND
"While Spielberg’s best handling of this kind of heightened airport novel was in the mighty Munich, he achieves a more affecting conclusion than that film. On the subway after having success in the Berlin trade-off, Donovan looks out the window to see kids jumping over a fence, instantly causing him to remember the murdered Germans trying to climb the dividing cement wall during his sojourn there. Spielberg holds on a shot of Hanks staring dumbfounded out the window, recalling the framing device of De Palma’s Casualties Of War where, also on a train, Michael J. Fox saw a vision that brought the dread and terror of overseas malfeasance to our 'safe' shores. Bridge Of Spies is rich and wise, the work of a director gracefully entering his 'Old Master' years. Like Abel’s work, it is a self-portrait of its creator and his engagement with history, humanity and his own elevated art."
"One of the main reactions I heard from people who dismissed Casualties Of War during its theatrical run in August of 1989 was that they didn't want to watch Michael J. Fox in a Vietnam film, that they simply didn't believe he was right to be a soldier. Even then, I didn't buy that as a legitimate gripe. First, Fox is a good actor, and always has been. Second, Vietnam wasn't a particularly picky war in terms of who the Army was willing to send over, and if a guy like Fox had enlisted or been drafted, they would have sent him happily. I think De Palma and Rabe get the racial balance right in the film, and beyond that, I think it's a nice cross-section of types so that when things go south… and they do… it's not just an either/or situation between Eriksson and Meserve. The acting styles of Sean Penn circa-1989 and Michael J. Fox circa ever couldn't be more different, and I like that friction that seems to exist between them. There's this huge macho swinging dick energy that Penn gives off where he basically tries to annihilate Fox through sheer force of personality alone. The Fox casting not only is not a problem for me, it's one of the things I love about the film the most. I was thrilled that he decided to try and stretch and ended up working with one of my favorite filmmakers at the time, and I thought it paid off in a genuine tension onscreen."
McWeeny doesn't seem to be a fan of the "director's cut" version of the film, for which De Palma restored the scenes he'd reluctantly cut from Casualties for its initial release, and also doesn't think the ending works. "The rest of the movie feels anti-climactic, honestly," McWeeny writes, "including an interrogation scene with two guys questioning Eriksson exhaustively, trying to pick holes in his story that was added to the director's cut of the film that is the only DVD currently available. The courtroom scenes at the end are necessary, but it's the least interesting stretch of the film. The one great beat is watching the four of them march out of the court martial, and Meserve leans in to whisper something to Eriksson and then --
"--- and then comes the unfortunate coda, where De Palma reaches for some profound beat between Eriksson waking up on the train and following the girl out to return a scarf to her. It's supposed to offer him some sort of closure, but it doesn't work as a moment at all. I think sometimes an ending like this can deflate a film, and in the case of Casualties, it's hard to deny that things end with a fizzle. There's something very odd about the way De Palma dubbed Amy Irving's voice over the English dialogue by Thuy Thu Le, and the dialogue she has is corn of an almost preposterous degree."
"Luttrell, played onscreen by Mark Wahlberg, was the only SEAL standing (barely) after a 2005 Afghanistan mission to assassinate a murderous Taliban warlord went wrong. Nineteen Americans died, and Berg uses every cinematic weapon in his arsenal to make you feel each bullet as it rips through the warriors’ bodies, defiling young flesh that he has previously hallowed. The Taliban fighters take single shots to the head or chest and are dead before they hit the ground; the SEALs stay up, eviscerated but seemingly invincible. It is only the Alamo-like imbalance of forces that finally brings them down, and even then their deaths are 'good.' They’re radiant as they take their last, shallow breaths. War has ennobled them.
"I’m not being snarky or ironic when I say to Marcus Luttrell, 'Thank you for your service.' It’s important to separate the men described in his book from their depiction in movies like Lone Survivor, which is crudely written, rife with clichés, and leaves out anything that would transform a piece of propaganda into a work of art akin to Samuel Fuller’s The Steel Helmet, Brian De Palma’s Casualties of War, or Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan."
In this chapter, I consider the original account by Lang and De Palma's cinematic rendering of it, which I view as the synthesization of several key themes in his oeuvre, especially the failed heroism of American manhood. I examine De Palma's film as a representation of American homosociality, providing a historical contextualization of it that illuminates American misogyny and homophobia, the latter no less a key factor in the events as described in the Lang account and De Palma's film. I provide a theoretical framework of the homosocial that allows us to consider De Palma's film as a critique of the normative codes of American manhood and what Gayle Rubin, following Levi-Strauss, calls the "traffic in women." The association of Eriksson, the man who opposed the kidnapping, rape, and murder of the woman, with homosexuality by the ringleader of the group, Meserve, is analyzed as a crucial component of the narrative. I explore the ways in which the film represents homoeroticism as both a galvanizing and threatening element in homosocialized manhood, which inculcates misogyny and homophobia. Further, this film represents a strong corrective to the particular forms of nationalism in the Reagan era, carried over into the Bush era. I also examine the film's staging of a masculine battle between a "negative narcissism" and a "heroic masochism."
TARANTINO "SHAKEN" BY SPIELBERG'S WWII FILMS
Tarantino also comments on The Guns of Navarone ("This is the first film about men on a mission, of which Inglourious Basterds is the distant heir"), The Longest Day ("The opening sequence, in which the Germans play with a German shepherd in the hills, is breathtaking"), The Dirty Dozen ("Previously, actors like John Cassavetes, Telly Savalas, Charles Bronson, and Jim Brown had never appeared in a war movie"), Kelly's Heroes ("This is one of the worst performances of Clint Eastwood"), and Inglorious Bastards ("This is not my favorite macaroni combat movie - that's the name given to these films on World War II, in reference to "spaghetti westerns." I am much more appreciative of Umberto Lenzi's Desert Commando").
And with so much discussion going on about Tarantino's new film in relation to some of Spielberg's WWII films it is nice to see what Tarantino himself has to say about them. Here is what Tarantino told Blumenfeld about Saving Private Ryan:
Spielberg is doing something unheard of with the opening of this movie. When you watch the sequence of the landing, it’s no longer possible to look the same way at The Longest Day, or even Samuel Fuller's The Big Red One. I was shaken in a similar manner by Schindler's List. Even though I have seen many films about the Holocaust, none up to that point had managed to get at the feeling of what it was like to be in the inside of a concentration camp. Saving Private Ryan made me aware of some issues raised by the cinema of war that I was unable to ask on my own. The idea that forty men on a boat are exterminated in seconds by a volley of machine gun is terrifying. Can you imagine the most atrocious carnage? Obviously, yes. Except that throughout the scene, you are persuaded to attend the worst slaughter in history. The sequence of the knife fight between a U.S. soldier and a Nazi at the end of the film is also as notable as the landing. I hate war movies where they show a soldier killing his opponents without sweating, as if it were insignificant. If I was fighting to save my skin, I think it would be a little more difficult. It's hard to kill someone, it takes sweat, and even with this, you have no guarantee of reaching your goals. Spielberg managed admirably to stage this scene with that dimension.
Last week, Dennis Cozzalio at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule posted an interview he did back in June with Salon film critic Stephanie Zacharek. Near the end of the interview, Cozzalio asks Zacharek "what would be in your movie hall of fame?" Zacharek lists The Lady Eve, the Apu Trilogy, The Rules of the Game, the Godfather movies (just parts I and II: "When I say the Godfather movies," Zacharek says, "Part III does not exist"), and The Wild Bunch. Then she says, "Let me see. Also something by Brian De Palma, probably Casualties of War." In the interview, Cozzalio and Zacharek discuss what it's like for her to be married to another film critic (Charles Taylor), Pauline Kael, movies she's stood up for, and interactions with readers. A very interesting read-- check it out. Also check out Cozzalio's terrific conversation with Joe Dante.
Metro France: You know already [all the good things] that people say about Inglorious Bastards. Quentin Tarantino remains one of the biggest cineastes of his generation. A well informed cinephile also, who has spent much time in Cannes theaters these past few days...
Is there a film that you've particularly liked since you arrived?
"I can't really speak about the other films in competition because if I mention two, they will ask me why I didn't mention two more! But if there is one that I would gladly defend, it's Kinatay by Brillante Mendoza because it seems [to be] receiving the worst critics up to now. But me, I found it extraordinary."
Precisely, what is your critique [of the film]?
"For a film that puts you in the witness position, I believed it from the beginning to the end, an impression strengthened by the fact that the story is told in real time. The situation is at the same time horrible and ordinary, almost boring. And it is rather crazy that such a thing could be boring! In some aspects, Kinatay reminded me of Casualties Of War, the film of Brian De Palma. We are witnesses of a murder of this prostitute in Manila, a "disposable" being, if we refer to the world she lives in. And the filmmaker [makes] us aware of her humanity, showing her pain. I also adored the flight in the car, in the dark, exciting because we can make out the forms and the sounds."
Do you still go as often to the movies?
"From age 17 to 22, I was filling up a detailed list of all the films I would see in a year. I was averaging 197 to 202 per year and at that time I was broke! I am doing much less today. In real life, my own movies get in the way and one has to be a journalist to see so much!"
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