flag of our fathers

has anyone seen this?

heart in the right place, i guess — heroes schmeroes, PTSD, the banal brutality of war. but why oh why do american directors have to spell everything out so damn explicitly? and why oh why do they feel a need to give us the same damn soundtrack every single time?

i wish i hadn’t seen it.

15 thoughts on “flag of our fathers”

  1. at least the actors are effete (in the case of ryan philippe, effeminate) and young looking enough that this is a commentary on youth rather than masculinity. a point in its favor.

  2. have not seen this, but we did watch letters from iwo jima a week or so ago. and yes, i was sick of the soundtrack about 5 minutes in. i didn’t post about that one, the companion film to flags of our fathers, from the japanese point of view, because there really didn’t seem to me to be a whole lot to say about it. looks nice, but is completely uninvolving–i can’t believe there was so much hoopla about this film. perhaps these movies have a different kind of effect on americans to whom these battles are more iconic in their significance.

  3. Or the films’ iconicity is trumped up further by the director’s — I haven’t seen these, so a criticism isn’t fair, but we’ve debated before about how, why Eastwood gets such critical love. It’s gotten Escheresque, with the masculine sign of “Clint” obsessively invoking a study of masculine signs. There is, admittedly, something very interesting about that subtext–the female boxer, the effeminate Philippe, and so on. I’m just not that interested in these (over?)texts.

  4. flags looks very good too. in fact, i think it looks pretty impressive. but i find myself recoiling from huge productions. the pleasure of the film — and, in this case, of the film’s politics — is trumped by thought of how much it all cost. millions to advertise the cause of traumatized and manipulated veterans: surely it could be done with less money, more decorum?

    in the last bit eastwood feels a deeply execrable desire to exalt the veterans after all. they were honored enough by the film itself, by the quiet dignity of the characters. but no, the voiceover needs to spell it out: they didn’t do it for us, for the country (surely a brave thing to say in itself): they did it for each other. certainly true, but eastwood says it with broad string volleys in the background and young naked bodies frolicking in the water in the foreground, and it sounds so amazingly soppy, so false.

    soppy = false.

    dunno about clint’s iconicity. he’s been around a long time. hollywood loves weathered cowboys turning earnest in their old age. this is man-crush writ large.

  5. I liked Letters. Yes, Eastwood’s eight notes of underscoring grates after ten minutes but the film did involve me and many of the characters (Watanabe in particular) were very well realized and played.

  6. I think a good advertisement, done with less money and more decorum, of the cause of traumatized and manipulated veterans, is Kubrick’s Paths of Glory. I haven’t seen either Eastwood epic. But it seems these comments could easily apply to Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, which I have seen and is filmed neither from Ryan’s point of view, nor his privates.

    I have to ask Gio to explain her logic, “soppy = false” which seems to me close to what governs her criticism of Blood Diamond. I have to implore her. Compel her. Beg her this time. Please don’t dismiss my comment with a flippant remark. Don’t become like Arnab, Gio. Please.


  7. thank you, john, for giving me a chance to explain that my name is pronounced “jo,” not “geo.” it’s a common enough mistake, though, really, we did spend quite a few years in auditory range of each other. never mind.

    john, i don’t know how to explain the point i’m making here about soppiness and the similar point (well spotted) i made in the blood diamond thread! when i feel unclear about my thoughts, i use arnab’s technique and turn to flippancy. unlike arnab, i am of course also capable of highly articulate thought. just not this time!

    i know you have critical respect for sentimentality. why don’t you start? it’ll be easy to reply once there is a clear conceptual framework to work from. who knows, i may change my mind entirely. please do start, john. i don’t have the mental resources right now. i’m not being flippant. i’m being humble.

  8. How do these Clint Eastwood movies (which I have zero interest in ever seeing) stack up against Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line? I tried to watch this one over the weekend, but really just couldn’t make it through.

    I don’t mind violent movies, but I apparently have a difficult time with war movies. And though I liked almost everything about this movie (no sappy manipulative score here), I couldn’t watch more than an hour of it.

  9. Eastwood’s scoring is too minimal to be sappy but his compositions are certainly repetitive as hell. The Thin Red Line is best watched in short bursts but there are moments. I did see both Eastwood films and while I abhorred Flags (too earnest, too much pathos, too self-congratulatory), I do think Letters deserves most of its commendations. Perhaps it’s the film’s novelty (Iwo Jima from the other side’s perspective) but it is leaner, more surprising and less cloying than the first installment. There is also a sense of impending dissolution which hovers over the film and undermines (or bends if you will) some of the generic expectations (I never once felt such concerns with Saving Private Ryan, a film I loathe). Again I will cite Watanabe, but I also liked the work of Kazunari Ninomiya (major pop idol in Japan), Tsuyoshi Ihara, and Ryo Kase. The tension that exists between these men’s love of country is at odds with their admiring respect for America and Western cultural traditions (one competed for the equestrian Gold during the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles), making their actions more conflicted and adding greater psychological depth to the drama. It’s worth a look.

  10. Gio, I was trying to type out how your name would sound were it cried out, in anguish, in slow-motion. I know you’re Gio (Jo). Oh well.

    As for the critical function of soppiness, I’m no expert. But I can try to put together a few thoughts. I think I am responding as someone who is trying to think through these things, not as someone with a side to choose (i.e. I am not saying soppiness = truth). I just wonder if there’s something wrong in assuming that the spectacle of oppression and victimization, if it provokes anger, is somehow “truer” than the spectacle of victimization that provokes tears. I just think this assumption is simply tapping into the age-old idea that pathos is uncritical. I read a good book about this subject (sorry Mark). It’s Upheavals of Thought: the Intelligence of Emotions by Martha Nussbaum. I recommend it.

  11. what’s the difference between sappy and soppy? is it an english-american thing?

    there’s no such thing as a soundtrack too minimal to be sappy. i can think of a number of three-note combos that would be sappy under the right circumstances. eastwood knows how to use his three-note sequences. philip glass is minimalist by definition, but he’s totally sappy. fucking the hours: made me lose so much fluids, i almost died of dehydration. (i didn’t feel cheated though: keep on reading).

    well, i guess aristotle had no problem with sentimentality, did he? there’s certainly a good pedigree for the use of sentimentality in art. but this, this seems like cheating to me. you can make me cry at a dorritos commercial if you put the right music in. make me cry without music and i’m not going to say anything i promise. music is too simple.

    i don’t want to cry when i wouldn’t cry otherwise but the music, alone, makes me (well, alone but in the right context). i don’t want to cry at bad music that’s got no intrinsic artistic merit. i don’t want to cry with a movie that i’ll forget, or the emotions of which i’ll forget, 5 minutes after having watched it.

    in blood diamond, i’d rather cry because war and children and africa, than because leo di caprio won’t get to see the girl ever again and he’s dying alone on the side of the mountain. (i really did want those two to get together and kiss kiss kiss, john).

    i don’t want to cry at all the wrong things for all the wrong reasons. this is the soppiness/sappiness i’m against.

    am i mixing crying-inducing elements? i am mixing crying-inducing elements.


  12. i believe martha said that you should get some iron in your soul and stop whining and blubbering on the bed. then she dragged you off and threw you into your closet with your headphones still attached to your head. oh wait, that was tony soprano.

    to come back to the pair of eastwood iwo jima films, well the one i’ve seen anyway: i thought it worked as a sort of textbook exercise in “humanizing the enemy”–there are good japanese, and there are bad japanese, and like us the good japanese themselves can’t always tell who the bad japanese are. oh, and there’s some bad americans as well. this is all very well for warm, fuzzy feelings in the pit of the stomach (or wherever it is warm, fuzzy feelings are felt–i haven’t had one in ages) but it might have been more interesting to explore more fully the very different martial codes that governed the ways in which the battle was waged. the film might have also been more effective as a film if there was any clear sense of the passage of time. as it is, it feels like the island was taken and cleared of the japanese in just three or four days (yes, that’s how many days of hunger and thirst it would take me to start eating slugs and drinking my urine).

  13. Sorry. With all the shouting going on, I assumed the demands for very deep thoughts were out the window. Can one mix shouting with very deep thought?

    Nussbaum: it’s actually a very good book. I do suggest you read it. I’m just not sure what she says about “mixing crying inducing elements.”

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