Tuesday, March 09, 2010

War Movies ~ Hurt Locker ~ The Victors

So a movie about war won this year's Oscar for best film. Its director won the award for best director too - Ms Bigelow is the first female director to be so honored- that's definitely good news. Mystic Medusa wrote about Bigelow's astrology yesterday, so I won't bother to repeat it.

As for the movie - I haven't seen Hurt Locker yet, and am not sure I want to see it having read the synopsis and reviews. The idea of movie makers' bank accounts growing fat by depicting, as entertainment, our most current version of man's inhumanity to man makes me feel decidedly queasy. War movies depicting history are slightly more acceptable - as long as they don't glorify the horror of war in a juvenile gung-ho fashion.

The only movies with a war theme I've been able to stomach can be counted on one hand (and still have fingers left over): The Great Escape, From Here to Eternity, and the best and least lauded of all, Carl Foreman's The Victors.

It's ironic that a movie like Hurt Locker can win an Oscar in 2010, while, in the early 1960s The Victors was more or less blacklisted. It had certain sections cut out of it after preliminary screenings - sections never to be seen again......presumably because they were too anti-war, or "anti-American". I've noticed a few less than complimentary reviews still available on-line, written by then contemporary US film critics.

I saw the movie back in 1963, in England. I've never forgotten it. My husband had neither seen nor heard of it, so not long ago I went about trying to find a VHS or DVD recording of the movie. I found one, probably a bootleg, and the shortened version. Even in its less than ideal quality the film impressed my husband enough to be keen to find a recording of the full-length original somewhere. No luck so far.

It's inevitable that British and Europeans have different perspectives from Americans on World War 2, or had, in the 1960s, when it was still fresh in many memories. People in the USA have never had bombs raining down upon their cities, night after night. In what one sour critic described as "a mawkish scene" towards the end of the movie, when George Peppard's character is waiting for a 'bus in a northern English back street, in the rain, a kindly family invites him into their home to get dry and have a cup of tea (naturally!) Peppard chats with the family and asks a youngster about his Dad, who is away in the army. "What does your Dad say about the war", he asks. "He says he doesn't like it." A simple, unaffected, underplayed exchange, but it said so much.


R J Adams said...

Well written. I, too, raised an eyebrow when 'Hurt Locker' won, but I decided not to criticize without seeing it. You did an excellent job of avoiding that pitfall. I don't ever remember seeing 'The Victors'. I must try and locate a copy.

Wisewebwoman said...

I saw "The Victors" way back too, T and would love to get my hands on a copy of the uncut version, let me know if you do.
I've always loved "The Life and Times of Colonel Blimp" which I managed to get restored to original cut a couple of years ago. Another fine anti-war film made before the end of WW2.
also "The Bridge on the River Kwai".
I haven't seen "Hurt Locker" and am in 2 minds about it.

Twilight said...

RJ Adams and WWW ~~ Thanks for your input.

I haven't seen Col Blimp, WWW, I'll watch for a copy of it.

I've just been reading a string of comments on this topic at Common Dreams and came across several with views similar to mine.

One commenter, called Giovanna, commented at 10.32 on 9 March, and mentioned an article by John Pilger quoting a piece from it - I'll copy the extract here:

In early February, John Pilger wrote a terrific essay titled, 'Why the Oscars are a Con,' which echoes the excellent points you make regarding The Hurt Locker and other war movies, which consistently paint Americans as the victims of their own wars of aggression. The complete essay can be viewed here: www.johnpilger.com/page.asp?partid=566.
Regarding The Hurt Locker, Pilger states in part:

"...what Hollywood does brilliantly is suppress the truth about America’s assaults. These are not wars, but the export of a gun-addicted, homicidal “culture”. And when the notion of psychopaths as heroes wears thin, the bloodbath becomes an “American tragedy” with a soundtrack of pure angst.

Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker is in this tradition. A favourite for multiple Oscars, her film is “better than any documentary I’ve seen on the Iraq war. It’s so real it’s scary” (Paul Chambers CNN). Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian reckons it has “unpretentious clarity” and is “about the long and painful endgame in Iraq” that “says more about the agony and wrong and tragedy of war than all those earnest well-meaning movies”.
What nonsense. Her film offers a vicarious thrill via yet another standard-issue psychopath high on violence in somebody else’s country where the deaths of a million people are consigned to cinematic oblivion. The hype around Bigelow is that she may be the first female director to win an Oscar. How insulting that a woman is celebrated for a typically violent all-male war movie."