American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
I've been thinking a lot about Stanley Kramer's "Bless the Beasts and the Children," but I still can't figure out what it's up to. Is it in favor of buffalo? Against parents who cause their children to become neurotic? In favor of neurotic kids because they're more sensitive and civilized than well-adjusted kids? An argument for gun control?
The story involves six kids at one of those summer camps designed to do in a summer what parents have been undoing for a lifetime (the motto is something like "Send us a boy and we'll send you back a cowboy.") I can remember as a child being frightened by the ads in Boy's Life for military schools designed to "build men," they sounded like prisons. This summer camp isn't that bad, but it does have a couple of real cretins on its staff.
Anyway, these six kids don't fit in so well. The other kids think they're different, and so they are. (Would you choose a 13-year-old who carries his Security Pillow under his arm to play on your softball team?) One day the kids discover to their horror that herds of buffalo are shot from time to time in a nearby corral, to keep the buffalo population under control. For reasons that are suggested in flashbacks (one per kid) the kids seek self-respect, or exhibit courage, or become independent, or something, through deciding to free a herd of buffalo.
This takes up most of the movie, although the point isn't made that population control is indeed a way of assuring the survival of the buffalo -- no longer an endangered species, no matter what the movie thinks. But at the end of the movie we get a big one-two-three moral whizzero, I'm still trying to sort out.