In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

I Lost My Body

A visually sumptuous slice of macabre storytelling that works best when it uses its director’s magical sense of composition and less when it feels weighed…

Other reviews
Review Archives

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other reviews
Great Movie Archives

Reviews

The Anderson Platoon

  |  

By coincidence, I saw Eugene Jones' "A Face of War" at a screening the day before I went to review "The Anderson Platoon."

Both films use cinema verite to examine the rifleman in Vietnam, but the Jones film is incomparably more true and compelling than "The Anderson Platoon" (which won this year's Academy Award).

"American Platoon" was photographed for French television by Pierre Schoendorffer, a war correspondent who was with the French at Dien Bien Phu. It follows a platoon through several weeks of jungle warfare, and there are interludes as platoon members go on leave in Saigon, moments of humor and grisly moments of horror. The entire film is narrated.

Advertisement

By contrast, Jones used only available sound in "A Face of War." There isn't a word of narration in it. The sound is a jumble of radio broadcasts, orders, calls for help, obscenities, wisecracking, briefings, and cries of pain. Strangely enough, it is much easier to follow the action this way than when Schoendorffer's narrator tries to explain things.

"Anderson Platoon" has cute effects (while GIs march through the mud, Nancy Sinatra sings "Boots Are Made for Walking"), "A Face of War" none. It does, however, show soldiers assisting at a battlefield birth and acting in the traditional manner ("Ain't he a tough little bastard? Hey, snookums, what you cryin' about? Upsy-daisy"). It is a deeply moving scene.

Also moving are the faces of the soldiers as they give frantic first aid to men caught by a booby trap; their faces late at night as they stand watch; their strained faces as they peer into the jungle for the enemy.

Neither film takes a position for or against the war. Schoendorffer and Jones let the events speak for themselves. But the French film is about Vietnam, a specific war. And the Jones film, which I hope finds a booking here, is not about Vietnam at all, but about the rifleman wherever he may be assigned: lonely, weary, proud, bitter and scared.

Popular Blog Posts

Disney Plus Launches with Star Wars Spin-off The Mandalorian

A review of the new Star Wars spin-off, The Mandalorian.

Not defending the Marvel Cinematic Universe

A Far Flung Correspondent weighs in on the MCU controversy.

The Best Films of the 2010s

Our staff choices for the best films from 2010 through 2019.

Jordan Peele’s Reboot of The Twilight Zone Lives Up to Original

A review of CBS All Access' The Twilight Zone.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus