Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Eastwood's 'Letters from Iwo Jima' smear

Regular RoR readers will recall that I was sharply critical of director Clint Eastwood’s recent film depiction of the Marines on Iwo Jima during WWII, which I argued failed to dramatize the virtues that allowed the Marines to prevail against the Japanese and unfairly saddled the living with the undeserved guilt of having had survived the battle. You can easily imagine then how I nearly fell out my chair when I read this quote from a review of Clint Eastwood’s upcoming "Letters from Iwo Jima":

Whereas "Flags" was a cynical, skeptical, pointed view of war from the American side, "Letters" offers a pure, almost poetic vision through the eyes and language of the Japanese — an idealistic depiction of duty and dying for one's country.
That’s an accurate statement on Eastwood’s “Flags” and I wager it is an accurate statement on "Letters." Of course Eastwood gave the Japanese the “idealistic” treatment he refused to give the Marines—the Japanese were fighting for a benighted cause, and in Eastwood's seeming world-view, their sacrifice was more total, and thus they are the more spiritually significant force.

The reviewer goes on to underscore that Eastwood's films make "the ultimate point is that, despite being an ocean apart, the men fighting and giving their lives on both sides of the battle weren't so different after all." That's right folks, the walk-away from these two films is that the men who fought for dictatorship and the men who fought for freedom were pretty much the same.

And while I hardly think such was the case for the Marines of Iwo Jima, I certainly think it apples to the morally agnostic who live among us today. After all, just how many times have we heard that one man's terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, or that Islam is a religion of peace . . .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nick, I share your upset over Eastwood's Iwo Jiwa movies. I have yet to see either, but judging from the reviews, I agree with your conclusions.

Based on many of his earlier movies, I have always been a big Clint Eastwood fan, especially of the Western classic he was the lead actor in, "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly", and of many of his "Dirty Harry" police thrillers.

"The Good, The Bad and The Ugly", directed by Sergio Leone, is a brilliant cinematic spectacle. I relished the epic scope and style of the filming and story, which spanned the gamut of scenes from the Civil War in the Western states. Moreover, the characters were well-drawn and brilliantly acted, particularly the character of Tuco, played by Eli Wallach. His character was an often comical, greedy fool, but one who aggressively and consistently acted on his mistaken moral principles. The same goes for the "Bad" character played by Lee Van Cleef. He was consistently evil, and acted accordingly.

While I thoroughly enjoyed "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly", I never agreed with its moral premises. The movie conveyed a malevolent world, where the "good", played by Clint Eastwood, was really a scoundrel in his own right, just one with a little more heart.

Nevertheless, I think of it as a great cinematic accomplishment, in terms of filming, scope, and the conflict of the characters. As for the conflict, the three-way climactic gunfight between the main characters is the best gunfight I have seen in any Western, aided superbly by the Ennio Morricone score, which I've found people either love or hate! (I am in the former category.)

Having said how much I love Eastwood's Western masterpiece (directed by Sergio Leone, who really gets credit for most of what I liked in the movie), it appears that the malevolent world-view implied in it only became stronger in Eastwood's later movies, such as "The Unforgiven" and, most horrifically, in "Million Dollar Baby". I enjoyed "The Unforgiven" on several levels, although it is a bleak story, but "Million Dollar Baby", which he made later, only made me angry.

I probably won't see Eastwood's latest World War II movies, except possibly when they appear on cable. I am saddened that such a great movie maker has succumbed so thoroughly to the malevolent premises apparent in his earlier works.