DUBBY’S DVDISUCSSION: From war of revolution


On January 23, the Oscar nominees will be announced. Will these two films be amongst the lucky ones?

War is terrible. We all know that. War is cynical, and if we don’t know that, then Clint Eastwood’s Flags Of Our Fathers makes sure we do. And above all, war leaves behind the walking dead which Eastwood tries to show us. In the end Flags Of Our Fathers is as controversial and messy as war itself.

Eastwood goes behind the most famous war picture of 20th century — the raising of the flag on the Japanese-held island of Iwo Jima taken by Joe Rosenthal and based on the book by the son of one of the heroes of the battle, forges a worthy stately, sober and heroic movie laced with bitter cynicism.

Written by Paul Haggis, who along with Eastwood wrote the Oscar-winning Million Dollar Baby, Flags is ultimately flawed.

In the words of Ethan Alter, “It’s not particularly interesting and involving and there is a stilted air to the film that causes it to resemble one of those dry History Channel documentaries.”

Eastwood has also done a companion piece from the Japanese point of view called Letters From Iwo Jima, which Alter hopes, turns out to be a better example of the director’s strength.

The British press was more openly damning. Nev Pierce writes that the obviousness of the film in particular is the directing and editing, which inevitably has fireworks leading to flash back to the battlefield or lightning turning into bomb bursts until someone says that’s enough. And the whole thing is mind numbing, shot as it is in austere tones of grey contrasted against bloodied prosthetic corpses.

John Slattery stands out as an ends-justify-the-means PR (“People will shit money”). His job is to get the three heroes to sell war bonds on an exhausting cross America trip. His scenes are the most effective, showing how compromise can lead to despair and how telling the truth is not easy and desirable.

If Flags Of Our Fathers gets an Oscar, it will be because of the name Clint Eastwood and because it would be un-American not to give it one.

It might be set in the 18th century, but Sofia Coppola treats her Marie Antoinette as a sort of teen star surrounded by groupies, seduced by palatial trappings and completely isolated from her people. Coppola doesn’t even bother with French accents so Kirsten Dunst and Jason Schwartzman keep their Americanisms and the soundtrack blares rock and roll.

But somehow it adds up, not for purists but for those who can go beneath the lush, sumptuous, brilliant photography and find the truth that that writer Antonia Fraser has in her book, which the film is adapted from. People will call it a superficial but it’s not. It’s a film about superficiality. In the end, the film has bite beneath the eye candy.

Says critic Jonathan Dean, “Dunst — who charms throughout, smiling, tittering, breaking down — is beautifully framed, isolated among empty opulence and drifting from one daft custom (dressing) to another (eating). ‘This is ridiculous!’ gasps Antoinette. ‘This, Madame, is Versailles,’ comes the prim reply. But this is a punk film, one to shun stuffy straitjackets much as its heroine did during her life. And it’s in her lavish parties and outrageous money-spending that the movie comes alive. Fitting its subject as smartly as the equally anachronistic Converse trainers, Coppola slips into the Queen’s enormous shoe-rack. Marie Antoinette’s life may well have ended up a nightmare, but, here, Coppola mostly allows her to dream...”