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Sidebar to the op-ed piece I mention elsewhere:

Richard Schickel's choices of best antiwar films and the best that celebrate war or, in Schickel's words, those that "praise American dutifulness in the face of terrible circumstances."

Best antiwar films

All Quiet on the Western Front 1930

Based on the novel by Erich Maria Remarque, the film follows five German boys who enlist in World War I anticipating glory but finding disillusionment.

Grand Illusion 1937

Two French officers are imprisoned during World War I

The Story of GI Joe 1945

A look at World War II thorugh the eyes of a war correspondent accompanying US troups in battle

The Big Red One 1980

A World War II sergeant and a few members of his team survive battles from Africa to the shores of France on D-day only to see the full horror of war at a concentration camp

Full Metal Jacket 1987

Marine recruits make it through boot camp and get to Vietnam in times for a major battle, the Tet Offensive.

Best war films

Air Force 1943

A B-17 Flying Fortress on a training flight to Hawaii finds itself on the front lines when Pearl Harbor is attacked

They Were Expendable 1945

US PT boats defend the Philippines from Japan in World War II

Saving Private Ryan 1998

After three brothers die in World War II, US soldiers go behind enemy lines to rescue the fourth brother.

Edited by Darrel Manson
A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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The inclusion of Full Metal Jacket (1987) under "anti-war" films is kind of interesting, since Kubrick reportedly said that film was supposed to be a straight-forward "war film", as opposed to the TRULY "anti-war" sort of film he had made three decades earlier with Paths of Glory (1957).

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Any accurate depiction of war in film will necessarily be an anti-war film.

That said Patton would be on my list of best war films, along with Apocalypse Now. They Were Expendable probably wouldn't have been.

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They Were Expendable probably wouldn't have been.

Tell me why? Wouldn't you grant it as one of the best of the period and genre (mid WWII quasi propaganda films)?

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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theoddone33

: Any accurate depiction of war in film will necessarily be an anti-war film.

Spielberg claimed that when Saving Private Ryan came out, but I don't buy the argument, myself -- it is quite possible to make an "accurate" depiction of violence in which the violence seems justified.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I don't know, having never been in combat. But I think there must be a reason why PTSD is so common among those who have been. The entire experience is one that is horrific and beyond what humankind is designed to process.

I'm currently reading Brokaw's The Greatest Generation, which I think certainly falls in the realm of "praise American dutifulness in the face of terrible circumstances." A constant comment he makes is that those who saw terrible combat don't talk about it, even 50 years later. It is something they put behind them. They relish some of the experience of the war, but not the combat.

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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I don't know, having never been in combat. But I think there must be a reason why PTSD is so common among those who have been. The entire experience is one that is horrific and beyond what humankind is designed to process.

But of course there is a great chasm between real combat and any cinematic or literary or electronic video game version of it, which will inevitably merely offer thrill ride status given that everyone knows actual bullets are not being fired in the theatre. The hairier the scarier, and regardless of its "realism," there's not much difference between Saving Private Ryan and a visceral slasher movie where the audience walks out of the theatre with their heart pounding and a dazed look on their face, breathlessly gushing about what a great film it was and where shall we go for dinner? Reportedly, Sam Fuller--who did experience combat--called Full Metal Jacket "another god***n recruiting film," and it's easy to see what he means; the film's "nightmarish" quality is precisely what a lot of non-squeamish thrill seekers are looking for. I certainly knew guys in high school who praised the film for its "realism" just as they enlisted in the marines.

I think the assumption that presenting the horrific experience of war on screen is somehow "anti-war" is quite specious.

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But of course there is a great chasm between real combat and any cinematic or literary or electronic video game version of it, which will inevitably merely offer thrill ride status given that everyone knows actual bullets are not being fired in the theatre. The hairier the scarier, and regardless of its "realism," there's not much difference between Saving Private Ryan and a visceral slasher movie where the audience walks out of the theatre with their heart pounding and a dazed look on their face, breathlessly gushing about what a great film it was and where shall we go for dinner? Reportedly, Sam Fuller--who did experience combat--called Full Metal Jacket "another god***n recruiting film," and it's easy to see what he means; the film's "nightmarish" quality is precisely what a lot of non-squeamish thrill seekers are looking for. I certainly knew guys in high school who praised the film for its "realism" just as they enlisted in the marines.

I think the assumption that presenting the horrific experience of war on screen is somehow "anti-war" is quite specious.

Doug: I basically agree with the substance of what you're saying. To render "violence" as an aesthetic experience, in every instance I can think of, trumps whatever laudable ideology the anti-war film is trying to convey. And film really makes this problematic because everything tends to turn into an aesthetic experience. But I think there is something deeper going on psychologically. We now have audiences who are acclimated to cartoon and aesthetic "violence" as a kind of pornography. "Violence" really seems to function as a signifier for that which can't be shown: sex. Audiences aren't perceiving the "violence" as a moral problem, because they are "getting off" on it. This is a legitimate artistic problem -- how does one successfully "trouble" the audience with the weight of a morally problematic situation?

So it may be that the anti-war film is a historical phenomenon. They existed. Audiences responded to them correctly, just as they screamed in terror at the gunman in Porter's The Great Train Robbery pointing the gun at them and firing. In retrospect, Vidor felt that he had not done enough to make The Big Parade horrible enough. An understandable, human response. But then that period gave way to another, where "soft-core" gauzy abstraction of "violence" was replaced with ejaculatory "hard core" "violence".

And this brings us back to A Clockwork Orange and its' companion piece Full Metal Jacket. These are his commentaries on the historical change represented by this transition. Kubrick is, I think, completely aware of the problems of aesthetics and identification. And so in Full Metal Jacket he makes a textbook Brechtian film -- which is completely alien to the spirit of Sam Fuller, who belongs to the old world of "violence" as a moral problem. But given that Full Metal Jacket's considerable alienation effects go unnoticed by its fans in the military and gangsta tribes, does that mean that the Brechtian idea is itself dangerous and insufficient in a culture that already perceives itself as having an ironic view of both what is presented on the screen and their own lives? Or does the audience, too, have a responsibility to face up to its profoundly fascistic demand to be entertained at any cost..?

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I am hesitant to fully accept your last sentence as well Doug. I am specifically thinking here of Resnais. He wasn't necessarily an "anti-war" filmmaker, but he does have two films that solidly re-present some of the atrocities of WW II in a way that certainly reveals his feelings about world war. Both Night and Fog and Hiroshima, Mon Amour are principally about post-war memory, they are tractates designed to give us an alternative framework to remember the atrocities that are offered by some of the war films you appropriately disagree with.

The difference between Saving Private Ryan and something like Night and Fog is that they represent two approaches to historical memory. The first is a good one and the last is a bad one. What makes Night and Fog so successful as a film is that it just serves as a repository of memory. It doesn't try to assuage our memory by simply outlining the historical causes for the Holocaust. Such historical reasoning would serve to provide closure for what really shouldn't be closed. And on the opposite pole, the film does not try to keep tearing a scab off the wound in a confrontational effort to "not let us forget" (kind of like the Holocaust Museum in D.C.). Rather it charts a middle course, as all good war films should, and serves simply as a repository of memory. It serves as what Barthes refers to as a "zero degree" text."

I haven't seen the film, but Flight 93 sounds like a Resnais approach to historical memory, as is The Passion of the Christ for the most part.

My verdict is still out on Klimov's Come and See as a war film, but I think I would toss that out as a "good" war film along with Resnais' films.

Edited by MLeary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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Beautifully stated, GG. And I haven't seen Full Metal Jacket since it was in theatres, but I could certainly accept the argument that it takes a more Brechtian, alienating approach than Fuller's work. My larger concern is the way the aesthetic experience of violence is commonly assumed to be negative, but in actual fact, is often invigorating and thrilling--"horrifying" only in a Grand Guignol, Halloween fun sense. Look if you dare, if you can take it, if you're man enough. Not for the squeamish! Quite a few circus tickets have been sold under the same pretenses, bought by people ostensibly "shocked" and "repulsed" by the gruesome show.

"Violence" really seems to function as a signifier for that which can't be shown: sex. Audiences aren't perceiving the "violence" as a moral problem, because they are "getting off" on it.

Exactly. An anti-war film must be philosophically opposed to a war, not simply a catalogue of disgusting aesthetics.

I am specifically thinking here of Resnais. He wasn't necessarily an "anti-war" filmmaker, but he does have two films that solidly re-present some of the atrocities of WW II in a way that certainly reveals his feelings about world war.

I'm not sure why you'd make the distinction in the first place?

Both Night and Fog and Hiroshima, Mon Amour are principally about post-war memory, they are tractates designed to give us an alternative framework to remember the atrocities that are offered by some of the war films you appropriately disagree with.

Well yeah, but in that these films are primarily about memory and atrocity and the two films I've alluded to (but haven't fully critiqued) are primarily about combat, I'm not so sure that the comparison is all that useful.

The difference between Saving Private Ryan and something like Night and Fog is that they represent two approaches to historical memory. The first is a good one and the last is a bad one.

Did you mix the two films up in your second sentence? Historical memory is certainly one element SPR evokes, but I wouldn't say it's its primary project, as it is with Night and Fog. The latter film is historically reflective given that it was shot in real but deserted concentration camps and primarily keeps images of the atrocities offscreen, thus triggering our historical imagination and contemplation rather than "shocking" us with surprise and gore and visual extremity. One keeps our minds in the past; the other keeps them fully in the present. It's the same tactic used for another film about historical memory, Shoah, whose director, Claude Lanzmann, refused to use archival footage on moral grounds. Fred Camper has written a wonderful essay on "Lanzmann's knowledge of the limits of representation, his willingness to acknowledge the impossibility of full cinematic mimesis of his subject, that is at the heart of the film's aesthetic and moral position." Susan Sontag has also written eloquently about the danger of photographs of atrocity becoming a form of pornography--in 1980 and in 2004 after the Abu Ghraib scandal.

What makes Night and Fog so successful as a film is that it just serves as a repository of memory.

I would say what makes it a great film is how it aesthetically functions as a repository of memory.

I haven't seen the film, but Flight 93 sounds like a Resnais approach to historical memory, as is The Passion of the Christ for the most part.

Wow, I don't see that connection at all. In its obsessional recreation of the aesthetics of violence, TPotC seems wholly unlike Resnais to me, who always opted for a more poetic and potent approach.

Edited by Doug C
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MLeary: The difference between Saving Private Ryan and something like Night and Fog is that they represent two approaches to historical memory. The first is a good one and the last is a bad one. What makes Night and Fog so successful as a film is that it just serves as a repository of memory. It doesn't try to assuage our memory by simply outlining the historical causes for the Holocaust. Such historical reasoning would serve to provide closure for what really shouldn't be closed. And on the opposite pole, the film does not try to keep tearing a scab off the wound in a confrontational effort to "not let us forget" (kind of like the Holocaust Museum in D.C.). Rather it charts a middle course, as all good war films should, and serves simply as a repository of memory. It serves as what Barthes refers to as a "zero degree" text."

MLeary, this reminds me of Serge Daney's famous essay, do you know it? I don't really agree with it, but it's interesting.

Daney: It is the other pornography
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I'm not sure why you'd make the distinction in the first place?

Simply because he is not trying to score any political points, I think he was just using WW II as a suitable backdrop for these points about memory and ended up making two good "war" films. My original comment was just made in passing. Godard often does use memory as a political device, and I think we need to keep Resnais firmly on the Left Bank in this regard.

Well yeah, but in that these films are primarily about memory and atrocity and the two films I've alluded to (but haven't fully critiqued) are primarily about combat, I'm not so sure that the comparison is all that useful.

It is in the sense that there is some atrocious footage in each film, there are moments that present the "horrific experience of war on screen." So they aren't combat films, but they are examples of good uses of horrific footage. Other than that, point taken.

Did you mix the two films up in your second sentence?

Yes I did, sorry. SPR is NOT a good use of memory. I dashed off that post because I was late for a cricket match.

Susan Sontag has also written eloquently about the danger of photographs of atrocity becoming a form of pornography--in 1980 and in 2004 after the Abu Ghraib scandal.

I think her work is really helpful in this regard, and things like SPR definitely fit under that umbrella. I can't remember if she specifically comments on the Holocaust Museum in D.C., but there is a helpful illustration there in the videos they run of camp footage. In the museum, they have five foot walls around screens built into the floor so that only adults can actually see them. There is something alluring about this sort of censorship. I felt like I was in a Duchamp installation trying to watch this awful Holocaust footage, and this absurdity lent the experience a Sontag vibe.

What makes Night and Fog so successful as a film is that it just serves as a repository of memory.

I would say what makes it a great film is how it aesthetically functions as a repository of memory.

Yep. That does deserve a finer point. Resnais was a special sort of artist because he found a use for his medium that was uniquely suited to it. Film and memory are basically indistinguishable ideas for Resnais, which makes for interesting war films.

Wow, I don't see that connection at all. In its obsessional recreation of the aesthetics of violence, TPotC seems wholly unlike Resnais to me, who always opted for a more poetic and potent approach.

There is a functional equivalence between the two in terms of their muted observation of a horrific act. In Night and Fog we don't actually see the act, but it still works the same way. There is a move in gospels criticism to think of the four gospels as a repository of the apostles memory regarding Jesus, and the passion narratives serve as an archive of the traumatic experience of the crucifixion. (This is all via social-memory theory and whatnot.) I think the best thing about TPotC is that it manages to transfer this historical memory vibe to the screen. It is at times colored with Gibson's spirituality, but by and large it serves as a neutral text. They are "non-images" to use Daney's term below, Barthes would call 'em "zero-degree." I would be willing to drop TPotC for United 93 as a comparison if it turns out to be as close to Night and Fog as I think it is. Sorry if this is coming out of left-field Doug, I am working through memory theory right now and a few of these theorists talk about war films as "good" uses of memory, and war films as "bad" uses of memory. I was just trying to think of the point you were making about combat footage in these terms.

MLeary, this reminds me of Serge Daney's famous essay, do you know it? I don't really agree with it, but it's interesting.

I haven't read that one yet, thanks for the link!

To say it differently: since moviemakers had not filmed the policies of the Vichy government at the time, their duty 50 years later was not to imaginarily redeem themselves with movies like Au revoir les enfants but to draw today's portrait of this good people of France who from 1940 to 1942 (and that includes the Vel' d'Hiv raid) did not move. Cinema being the art of present, remorse is of no interest.

That's why I love Daney.

Edited by MLeary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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goneganesh wrote:

: We now have audiences who are acclimated to cartoon and aesthetic "violence" as a kind of pornography.

: "Violence" really seems to function as a signifier for that which can't be shown: sex.

Which reminds me of a review of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe that I came across today:

But didn't you think that the cavalry charge ran the gamut of cavalry charge cliches? Close ups of commanders; elegaic music playing in the background as the armies charge, the music more or less blotting out all the battlefield sound; then the soundtrack cuts out altogether, and we get a few moments of silence; then an exaggerated heart beat to represent tension. When the two armies come together, the sound resumes but there's no music; just the sound of swords and armour.

Proposed Phd Thesis: Cavalry charges as a metaphor for orgasms in modern fantasy cinema.

For whatever that's worth.

FWIW, I agree with Doug's comments about seeing Saving Private Ryan as a form of thrill-seeking -- I, for one, have never pretended that I saw the film a second time for any reason other than to bask in the special effects again, especially during the opening and closing battles. The most effective death scene in that film -- the one with the Nazi lying on top of the Jewish-American as he knifes him -- is probably the least reliant upon effects, because it focuses on the faces of the characters and not on the act of violence, per se. And, interestingly, it is also probably the most sex-like of the violent acts in that film. Hmmm.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Simply because he is not trying to score any political points, I think he was just using WW II as a suitable backdrop for these points about memory and ended up making two good "war" films. My original comment was just made in passing. Godard often does use memory as a political device, and I think we need to keep Resnais firmly on the Left Bank in this regard.

Hmm...you may be creating a false dilemma there. Rohmer wrote that Hiroshima mon amour's focus on the past expresses "the anguish of the future," and that tension certainly implies political questions. Resnais said he and Duras wanting to address the reality of planes flying over their heads with atomic bombs 24 hours a day. But I guess speculating on intentionality is always a slippery slope. I must, however, disagree with your suggestion that the Left Bank filmmakers weren't political! Chris Marker and Agnes Varda set a standard for political filmmaking that the likes of Truffaut, Rohmer, or Chabrol never even approximated.

It is in the sense that there is some atrocious footage in each film, there are moments that present the "horrific experience of war on screen." So they aren't combat films, but they are examples of good uses of horrific footage.

Right, and it's helpful to compare/contrast them. Resnais' atrocity footage differs in that it's documentary and it's highly mediated through both its poetic narrative structure and its scratchy, black & white, silent authenticity. Resnais wasn't trying to dramatize the bomb's effects in a way that would make the viewer's heart race or encourage them to vicariously experience the horror from the absolute safety of the movie theatre. He was affirming the event's reality (through supressed Japanese footage) and encouraging reflection. It shocks but you don't drown in it.

I can't remember if she specifically comments on the Holocaust Museum in D.C., but there is a helpful illustration there in the videos they run of camp footage. In the museum, they have five foot walls around screens built into the floor so that only adults can actually see them. There is something alluring about this sort of censorship. I felt like I was in a Duchamp installation trying to watch this awful Holocaust footage, and this absurdity lent the experience a Sontag vibe.

I was intrigued by your comment about the memorial, so thanks for expanding. It does sound a bit bizarre...although I can appreciate wanting to have parts of the museum available to children and parts not. It's good that children should know of the event but that doesn't mean they should see flesh falling off babies or whatnot.

There is a functional equivalence between the two in terms of their muted observation of a horrific act. In Night and Fog we don't actually see the act, but it still works the same way.

This is probably where we most differ--I maintain it works precisely because we don't see the act. I don't see how TPotC is aesthetically muted in any way?

There is a move in gospels criticism to think of the four gospels as a repository of the apostles memory regarding Jesus, and the passion narratives serve as an archive of the traumatic experience of the crucifixion. (This is all via social-memory theory and whatnot.) I think the best thing about TPotC is that it manages to transfer this historical memory vibe to the screen. It is at times colored with Gibson's spirituality, but by and large it serves as a neutral text.

Hmm...this probably requires a different thread, but I don't see how TPotC can be considered a memory film since Gibson wasn't present, unlike the evangelists' accounts. (Incidentally, I wish someone would make a Jesus film by showing the narrative from four different perspectives, like Rashomon or the Scriptures do.)

I still see a major aesthetic difference between Night and Fog and Flight 93. A comparable film would wind its way through the ashes of the world trade center with a philosophical narration and images of broken buildings, piles of ashes, and remains--it wouldn't be a speculative and visceral blow-by-blow account that places the viewer "in the moment." The two approaches seem diametrically opposed with vastly different physiological and psychological effects.

Sorry if this is coming out of left-field Doug, I am working through memory theory right now and a few of these theorists talk about war films as "good" uses of memory, and war films as "bad" uses of memory. I was just trying to think of the point you were making about combat footage in these terms.
Actually, I find your comments fascinating and I'd like to hear more...but I'm not sure if really connects to my or GG or Daney's questions about the ethics of depicting atrocities or what constitutes good "pro-war" or "anti-war" films. It's interesting that neither of the directors of the two films we're discussing that have been praised for their "realism" (FMJ and SPR) ever experienced combat. Can those really be considered acts of memory?

It also occurs to me that "atrocity films" could be a subgenre of "war films." Top of my list would be Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies, about orphans attempting to survive the fire bombing of Tokyo and its aftermath. But then I guess most films regarded as "anti-war" films really only focus on one aspect: when the military hierarchy passes the buck (Paths of Glory), when war strips soldiers of their humanity (Fires on the Plain), the toll in human lives (The Burmese Harp), the difficult postwar experience (The Best Years of Our Lives), etc. Maybe "anti-war" is too vague a label?

And of course, there is a long tradition of documentaries about war, both propaganda and critique.

Edited by Doug C
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Hmm...you may be creating a false dilemma there. Rohmer wrote that Hiroshima mon amour's focus on the past expresses "the anguish of the future," and that tension certainly implies political questions.

Sure they were political, but in a much different way, and Resnais in particular. His "left-bankness" permitted him to wander off into Bergsonian flights of fancy while Godard drifted off into politics and the others into storytelling. Resnais implies some political questions, but he doesn't seem as interested in them as he could be. So the contrast persists between Resnais and other filmmakers, but I don't think it is a dilemma. There is a principle that stands behind all of Resnais' work. If I ever find myself confused by some spot in his filmography, I go right back to it and the fog lifts: He is almost always thinking about memory. (Side note: It would be interesting to compare Resnais and Duras in Hiroshima with Godard and Duras in Sauve qui peut.)

This is probably where we most differ--I maintain it works precisely because we don't see the act. I don't see how TPotC is aesthetically muted in any way?

I didn't want to go this far with that analogy. There are points of contact there via Barthes, but as you say, this discussion belongs to a different thread.

(Incidentally, I wish someone would make a Jesus film by showing the narrative from four different perspectives, like Rashomon or the Scriptures do.)

That's intriguing, though Tatian got in trouble for this at the end of the 2nd century. I do think TPotC is a work of memory insofar as it mimics, rather faithfully at many times, the passion narratives, even to the point of using the original languages. The film works as a visual version of the passion narrative, which is a repository of eyewitness memory. But as you say, this is for a different thread.

I still see a major aesthetic difference between Night and Fog and Flight 93.

Like I said, I haven't seen it. I am just curious as to how these two films interact.

It also occurs to me that "atrocity films" could be a subgenre of "war films."

That is a helpful way to parcel out the discussion. A lot of what Sontag says about "disaster films" could probably be said about "atrocity films." (And let's not forget "rubble films"!) A lot of this interaction between memory and trauma in film I picked up from Shocking Representations, which I have not yet gotten around to reviewing. Well worth perusing if you get a chance.

Edited by MLeary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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MLeary: I do think TPotC is a work of memory insofar as it mimics, rather faithfully at many times, the passion narratives, even to the point of using the original languages. The film works as a visual version of the passion narrative, which is a repository of eyewitness memory. But as you say, this is for a different thread.

Well, in a totally wacky way, it does have that "eyewitness" feel to it, but I'd say it's because Gibson uses the mystical P.O.V. of Emmerich's "The Dolorous Passion"; that the witnessing is done through a dubious medium is factually problematic for us, but not for Gibson. He thinks he's found a deep conduit into the truth of the event. To me, the film feels like an alternative, fifth gospel.

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Doug C wrote:

: (Incidentally, I wish someone would make a Jesus film by showing the narrative from four different

: perspectives, like Rashomon or the Scriptures do.)

Or Hoodwinked! :)

That's an intriguing proposal. The only catch might be that, as goneganesh notes, a filmmaker would inevitably impose his or her own perspective on the gospel perspective being presented, and possibly under the influence of some middle interpreter (like Sr. Emmerich was for Gibson); some filmmakers might think the gospels disagree on a point where other filmmakers think they actually agree, that sort of thing, and whether the film presents those points as agreement or disagreement add a fifth or sixth layer of interpretation.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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BTW, in the interests of bringing the Jesus-movie bits back closer to the topic of this thread, here is an excerpt of a presentation I made over a year ago linking The Passion of the Christ to the war-movie genre.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Good thoughts on TPotC, PTC. The only thing that may sorta get Gibson off the hook is the actual violence involved with the crucfixion. The one point of contact I am trying to stress between TPotC and something like Night and Fog is simply that witnessing the crucifixion would have been a mightily traumatic experience. TPotC neither tries to explain away these traumatic feelings through blaming it on the proper historical causes, nor does it serve as a way to needlessly rip the scab off the wound simply for the sake of "honoring the past." There are spots in which it is a good use of historical memory, much like spots in the Synoptic tradition and John.

But then again, that contradicts my review, which dwelt on the whole devotional aspect of the violence. Okay, I am just going to scrap this whole TPotC angle. It wasn't a vital part of the Resnais discussion anyway. (I still think that TPotC and 2001 have heaploads in common, I will just stick to that one.)

A good anti-war film, to get back on topic, may be the extended cut of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, in which we get a bigger picture on the Civil War booming around them.

Edited by MLeary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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Resnais implies some political questions, but he doesn't seem as interested in them as he could be. So the contrast persists between Resnais and other filmmakers, but I don't think it is a dilemma.

The dilemma I was referring to was your comment that he wasn't trying to score political points with the film, just address memory, but that would be a pretty reductionistic reading of Hiroshima mon amour given that the two concerns are intricately interwoven throughout. The film can't be addressed in an either/or manner, it oscillates between the fact of the bomb and its destruction in Japan and the romantic stories and their dissolution set in France/Japan, and each part contrasts, challenges, and informs the other.

That's intriguing, though Tatian got in trouble for this at the end of the 2nd century.

No, no--Tatian did what most Jesus films do, fashion a single narrative from the four different accounts. I'm saying it would be nice to see a filmmaker keep them separate and allow the viewer to speculate, make connections, etc.

The only catch might be that, as goneganesh notes, a filmmaker would inevitably impose his or her own perspective on the gospel perspective being presented, and possibly under the influence of some middle interpreter (like Sr. Emmerich was for Gibson)

Well a lot of interpretation occurs when one has to unify things; I'm suggesting they film each account as is without striving for unity. Of course, this would be an extraordinarily long film, so the filmmaker would have to make decisions about what to include or exclude...but I still think it could be done responsibly while evoking the manner in which the tradition itself preserved the history.

A lot of this interaction between memory and trauma in film I picked up from Shocking Representations, which I have not yet gotten around to reviewing. Well worth perusing if you get a chance.

Wow, that book looks wonderful! Georges Franju, Michael Powell, Shindo Kaneto, Wes Craven, and David Cronenberg...very interesting examples and not at all your typical choices. The publisher's copy reads: "[Lowenstein] shows that through allegorical representations these directors' films confronted and challenged comforting historical narratives and notions of national identity intended to soothe public anxieties in the aftermath of national traumas." Cue Clouzot's Le Corbeau, eh GG? Edited by Doug C
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Doug wrote: Wow, that book looks wonderful! Georges Franju, Michael Powell, Shindo Kaneto, Wes Craven, and David Cronenberg...very interesting examples and not at all your typical choices. The publisher's copy reads: "[Lowenstein] shows that through allegorical representations these directors' films confronted and challenged comforting historical narratives and notions of national identity intended to soothe public anxieties in the aftermath of national traumas." Cue Clouzot's Le Corbeau, eh GG?

Oh yeah. Except Clouzot is doing it in the MIDST of the trauma. And to that list I'd add, less and more allegorically, Vidor's The Big Parade, Ford's December 7th, and They Were Expendable, Ichikawa's Fires on the Plain and The Burmese Harp, Aldrich's Attack!, Ophuls' The Sorrow and the Pity and Melville's Army of Shadows, and Coppola and Schaffner's Patton (for Vietnam).

Patton is a very interesting film ideologically, by the way. Coppola makes him a fascist hero, who is profoundly anti-establishment, linking the two cultural strains in provocative ways, and giving Patton a tragic grandeur that even the hippies could feel.

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The dilemma I was referring to was your comment that he wasn't trying to score political points with the film, just address memory, but that would be a pretty reductionistic reading of Hiroshima mon amour given that the two concerns are intricately interwoven throughout. The film can't be addressed in an either/or manner, it oscillates between the fact of the bomb and its destruction in Japan and the romantic stories and their dissolution set in France/Japan, and each part contrasts, challenges, and informs the other.

I am more inclined to accept that for Night and Fog than Hiroshima.... I think he is more intent on addressing notions of identity and memory in this post-war context than the context itself. The geographical allusions in the film serve to locate these personalities in concrete historical circumstances, but I don't think Resnais is intent on making as many political points as he is aesthetic ones. We can't split aesthetics and politics in these instances, as Resnais' aesthetic becomes a sort of politic (which I think is the characteristic of "left-bank" political film-making), but it is actually reductionistic to pry too much political significance from that particular film. I would rather be reductionist by reading the film in light of the rest of his films than some sort of political framework it may or may not imply. Night and Fog is different, and its immediate reception in Germany and elsewhere reflects its profound openness to political readings.

No, no--Tatian did what most Jesus films do, fashion a single narrative from the four different accounts. I'm saying it would be nice to see a filmmaker keep them separate and allow the viewer to speculate, make connections, etc.

Yeah, gotcha. I misread your idea.

Wow, that book looks wonderful! Georges Franju, Michael Powell, Shindo Kaneto, Wes Craven, and David Cronenberg...very interesting examples and not at all your typical choices. The publisher's copy reads: "[Lowenstein] shows that through allegorical representations these directors' films confronted and challenged comforting historical narratives and notions of national identity intended to soothe public anxieties in the aftermath of national traumas." Cue Clouzot's Le Corbeau, eh GG?

Another banned film. He doesn't refer to it in the book, as he works mostly with films that develop visual allegories as a means of mediating trauma, hence much of his focus on the horror genre.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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Another banned film. He doesn't refer to it in the book, as he works mostly with films that develop visual allegories as a means of mediating trauma, hence much of his focus on the horror genre.

Thinking about this some more, I think Ugetsu fits the bill perfectly too. With the ghost world doubling both for the fatal imperial dream of the militarists, and a nostalgic longing for harmony in the chaos of the postwar Japan.

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I would also like to hear that author talk about the war scenes in The Sun. Not just scenes of the wreckage towards the end, but those brilliant frames where the airplanes and such abstract into these fishlike creatures (it has been a while since I have seen it, please correct me if I am wrong in that description). I don't want to say it was "touching," but it was certainly a moving moment of symbolism/allegory.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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