Saturday, May 26, 2012

American Epics Movie Review II

Then this evening I watched Apocalypse Now, which I had never actually seen altogether (I had seen bits of it, since Dr. Skull watches it about 17 times a year), as it is another movie I am considering for the American Epics class.

Having seen it, I am still not sure about showing it. It is definitely an epic. And it definitely fits the class. I'm just not sure I can sit through it twice.

I don't know if I've ever had this experience -- it's a piece of work that I know is good, but that I find aesthetically revolting. Watching it literally made me ill: I have a migraine now.

I think I also find it morally repelling, too, though I can't exactly pin down why. The use of people of color as objects to make a political point? (Unless I'm mistaken, no Asian in the film has a role except as a savage, an Other, someone to be shot at, exploded, attacked. It's true black Americans have actual roles -- that's nice -- but there's also an extended scene where black soldiers are used as savages, complete with face paint and magic connections to the universe.) The excessive violence against POC? The absence of women except as objects?

Kurtz's little speech, there at the end, about judgment being the enemy that defeats us?

I ...I remember when I was with Special Forces... seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate some children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there, and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms. And I remember... I... I... I cried, I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out; I didn't know what I wanted to do! And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it... I never want to forget. And then I realized... like I was shot... like I was shot with a diamond... a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought, my God... the genius of that! The genius! The will to do that! Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we, because they could stand that these were not monsters, these were men... trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love... but they had the strength... the strength... to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men, our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral... and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling... without passion... without judgment... without judgment! Because it's judgment that defeats us.

Yeah, that might be it. I know the movie tells us that Kurtz is crazy, so it has an out -- it can claim we're not supposed to think this is right -- but the movie is also playing him as a hero: the only man who is fighting this war right. (That's what the French dinner part is about; that's what Willard says on his trip up the river.) Kurtz is the man who is a God. He's outside the normal bounds, he doesn't have to play by the rules. So when he tells us this is the right way to act (in war), the movie is telling us that's right.

The movie approves, even if it also lets Willard kill Kurtz: it likes Kurtz's ethos. It wants this kind of warrior.

I think I probably will show it, because it's an American epic, and an American POV. But man I hate this movie.

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