CLVI – More Anti-War Films

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My
previous article
— suggesting
a number of anti-war films to
be watched over the Memorial
Day weekend
— generated more responses than
most of my previous articles.
Most of those who e-mailed me
had one or two movies of their
own to supplement my list. I
also realized — after the article
appeared — that I had inadvertently
omitted two of my favorite anti-war
films. The combination of personal
embarrassment for these oversights
and the quality of the motion
pictures recommended by readers,
has led to this addendum. As
with my previous article, these
films are rated on a personal
preference scale of *, **, or
***, although I regard each
as a worthy criticism of the
war system. Each rated film
is one I have seen, some of
them only after having been
praised by readers.

First,
let me make mention of the two
films I failed to mention earlier.

***
Why We Fight
. A powerful
documentary — in which Karen
Kwiatkowski, Chalmers Johnson,
and Gore Vidal carry most of
the intellectual load — on the
nature and history of the post–World
War II American war-making system.
It won the Grand Jury Prize
at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.
WARNING! Do not confuse
this with the pro-war series
of the same name, produced during
World War II by one of my un-favorite
directors, Frank Capra.

***
Children of Men
. A futuristic
film set in an Orwellian England,
where endless wars against endless
enemies have become the norm.
Throughout the world, most women
have become infertile, threatening
the extinction of the human
species. A woman has become
pregnant, and most of the film
is taken up with trying to get
her to a country that would
harbor her and her unborn child.
This is a very dark and violent
film — someone
is always in the process of
killing others, bombing buildings,
etc. What is encouraging, however,
is that none of the warring
factions are presented as u201Cgoodu201D
guys fighting the u201Cbadu201D guys.
It is the anti-life nature of
the war system itself — with
mankind as the endangered species
— that dominates the movie.

***
Breaker Morant
. A couple
readers couldn't understand
why I didn't include this Australian
film on my list. I must admit
that I considered it but, perhaps
because a similar theme had
been presented in the Paths
of Glory
film I had
recommended, I left it off the
list. Upon reflection, I think
the readers had better judgment
than I on this one.

It
is the story of Australian soldiers
— during the Boer War –
against whom phony murder charges
are made in order to facilitate
the political machinations of
bringing the war to an end.
It illustrates, quite well,
how soldiers — treated by the
state as nothing more than fungible
resources for its exploitation
— can be sacrificed both on
and off the battlefield.

*
Three Kings
. Set in
the first Gulf War, there is
an abundance of the blood-bath
that defines every war. What
is of particular interest in
this film, however, is the impact
war has on the non-combatant
refugees. A very nice ending
from their perspective.

**
Platoon
and ** Full
Metal Jacket
. These
are potent films providing a
soldier's perspective on the
dehumanizing, life-destroying
nature of war. As one who believes
that the gore and broken bodies
of those killed in wars should
be regularly shown on television
— so that the Sean Hannity's,
the Rush Limbaugh's, the Bill
O'Reilly's, et al., can get
a snootful of the system they
so adore — these films provide
a good secondary source. Platoon
won an Oscar for u201Cbest film.u201D

*
Lord
of War
. This movie deals
more with the underbelly of
post–Cold War arms-trafficking
than with wars themselves (although
there is plenty of blood-letting
for any pro-war vampires). Pay
attention to the credits following
the film. They inform us that
the five largest nations involved
in selling arms to the rest
of the world, are also the five
permanent members of the United
Nations Security Council!

**
A
Very Long Engagement
. Perhaps,
as a motion picture production,
this is artistically the best
film of all I have recommended.
While set in wartime (World
War I), with plenty of battlefield
insanity, it is essentially
a love story involving a young
woman intent on finding her
fianc — is he alive or dead?
— after the war. There is also
a very interesting character;
a prostitute bent on revenge
against corrupt military officers.

**
The
Battle of Algiers
. A
1965 film done in a pseudo-documentary
style, it dramatizes the decade-long
struggle of Algerians against
their French occupiers. This
motion picture affords viewers
insights into the current responses
of Iraqis to their American
occupiers.

**
Duck
Soup
. The Marx Brothers
slapstick assault on the war
system, with Groucho — as Freedonia's
prime minister — declaring war
on a neighboring country for
no apparent reason. My favorite
line in the film is when, in
the course of battle, Groucho
tells the others that they are
fighting for (Margaret Dumont's)
u201Chonor: which is probably more
than she ever did.u201D

**
Hearts
and Minds
. Won an Oscar
for best documentary. It deals
with the events and machinations
that led to the Vietnam War.
No clearer example of the hypocrisy
of the United States' alleged
efforts to bring u201Cfreedomu201D to
Southeast Asia is found than
in the effort of the federal
government to have this film
formally censored so that Americans
could not learn what their u201Crepresentativeu201D
thugs had been up to.

**
Grand
Illusion
. A 1937 film
by director Jean Renoir. I saw
this motion picture so many
years ago that it simply slipped
my mind in writing my first
article. An anti-war film focusing
on the futility of the war system.
That the German government tried
to destroy this film when it
first came out, provides some
evidence of its importance.

**
Das
Boot
and ** Letters
From Iwo Jima
. Two films
that address the horrors of
warfare from the perspectives
of those on the u201Cotheru201D side,
the first Germans, the second
Japanese. The latter is Clint
Eastwood's highly-praised picture.

There
are a number of other films
readers recommended, some of
which I have seen, some I have
not. These include The
Lives of Others
; Downfall;
Kelly's
Heroes
; The
Ground Truth
; Iraq
for Sale: The War Profiteers
;
When I Came Home; Come
and See
; No
Man's Land
; Born
on the Fourth of July
; The
Razor's Edge
(1984 version);
Coming
Home
; and A
Midnight Clear
. The
latter film was reviewed
at length by Rick Gee
.

There
are two documentaries that have
just recently appeared: from
u201CBill Moyers Journalu201D Buying
the War
. The other is
titled SPIN:
The Art of Selling War
.
They each examine the role of
the media in helping the state
promote its war efforts. I have
seen the former film, but not
the latter.

Should
you decide to conduct your own
Anti-War Film Festival this
forthcoming Memorial Day weekend,
you might be interested in including
a recitation of one of the most
powerful anti-war poems: Mark
Twain's The War Prayer
.

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