Monday, September 3, 2007

More on war movies

I meant to read this piece in the London Times while writing my earlier post, but never got round to it. It goes over much of the same ground as the stories referenced in Jonathan Foreman's NRO piece, but is notable for a string of inane comments from Brian De Palma.

These include such meticulously reasoned insights as: “Once again a senseless war has produced a senseless tragedy. I told this story years ago but the lessons from Vietnam have gone unheeded.”

The banality of this statement is matched only by De Palma's arrogance: if only the world had listened to him, everything would have been okay. I wonder if he has anything to say about the current situation in Darfur, or Zimbabwe – if so he needs to tell us now before it's too late.

De Palma has made what is likely to be one of the more context-free and prejudiced of the current batch of anti-war films. Redacted is based on a true story of US forces raping and murdering a local woman in Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad, last year.

This was a dreadful episode, and the perpetrators were convicted and jailed. The affair was widely reported in the media. But I'm guessing that Redacted will contain little if any discussion about why the US and her allies are doing in Iraq, the good work they're doing, and the consequences if they leave. Instead, audiences will be asked to believe that the film accurately portrays the everyday behaviour of American soldiers.

“How could these boys have gone so wrong?” De Palma asks. It is, of course, a rhetorical question: “If we are going to cause such disorder, then we must face the horrendous images that are the consequences of these events.”

So De Palma absolves the soldiers involved of any responsibility for their behaviour, putting it down to the dehumanising effects of war, and by implication laying the blame squarely at the feet of those responsible for this particular war.

But if De Palma wants to consider another factor that may have had some bearing on the actions of those soldiers, not to mention many other young men inclined to violence, perhaps he ought to look a little closer to home. In the print version of the Times story, the very next paragraph (which has been edited out of the online version) begins:

The director, best known for violent, stylish thrillers such as Scarface and The Untouchables…

Maybe, when the men who raped and murdered in Mahmudiya were teenagers they watched a few of De Palma's films. Maybe they watched the close-ups and slow-mo shots of bullets tearing bodies apart. Maybe they watched Robert De Niro's Al Capone beat an enforcer's head to a pulp with a baseball bat. Maybe they watched the sexual violence.

And maybe they thought: "Cool…"

Ace of Spades has more thoughts on De Palma.

Several commenters on my previous post were bemoaning the lack of a 'right-wing' (I would simply say 'fair-minded') operation in Hollywood. Sonny Bunch (who oddly enough sounds like a supporting character in a De Palma movie) has an interesting piece on the subject at The Weekly Standard.

Just found a new piece at the Standard, on De Palma and Tim Robbins.

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