Re: questions [multiple replies]

Thu, 25 Jan 1996 15:54:51 -0500


Subject: Re: questions


Two summer '95 movies seemed to me suffused with a kind of free floating
anxiety, even guilt, about the continuing challenge America faces to be true
to its historic, idealistic mission. Set in the remotest of historic pasts,
in medieval England, Braveheart and First Knight both have foreign stars in
lead roles and as directors (though Mel Gibson is American born, he spent
much of his youth in Australia), nonetheless they are Hollywood productions
to the core. And at the core is this very American concern: how do we
regain the sense of mission we seem to have lost in the tragic war in
Vietnam, how do we once again be as John Winthrop exhorted us to do, to be a
city on a hill.

First Knight begins with an image that cannot help but evoke memories of
Walter Chronkite and the 6:00 o'clock news: threatened by foreign invaders,
peasants take shelter in bunkers but the marauders set their thatched huts
afire - a zippo raid. The marauders are led by (Ben Cross) former knight of
Arthur's Round Table who has lost the faith and gone over to the dark side.
The peasants inhabit the lands of Guinevere on the borders of Camelot, a
lady, the film makes clear from the start, known for being upright and true.
In sum, the zippo raiders are the bad guys and they are attacking the pure
of heart.

Braveheart too is a film about making league with colonial intruders. At the
film's center is the wish expressed by Robert the Bruce "never [to] be on the
wrong side again." Bruce finally redeems his treachery against the film's
and the Scots national hero, William Wallace, by forsaking the lucrative and
prudential course proposed by the Scottish nobles to make an ignoble peace
with the colonials, the English. Ready to sacrifice all to be finally on the
right side, Bruce exhorts the peasantry "who bled with Wallace, now bleed
with me."

Neither film narrative is a full-blown, programmatic allegory of the Vietnam
War and its aftermath. There are many elements in both that will not fit
into an allegorical straitjacket. Nonetheless, there are enough elements in
both films that are best, most fully, understood as an evocation of the
Vietnam syndrome and an attempt to resolve it, to get America back on track,
at least America's sub-conscious.

I don't know if people will buy these readings but I found the films made
more sense as post-war films.

Randy Fertel
Tulane University


Sender: (Renny Christopher)
Subject: Re: questions

Ted Morgan asked:
>Were there any mainstream films out in 95 that contained significant
>representations of the Vietnam war? (as opposed to, say, Forrest Gump, a 94

There were at least two:
Dead Presidents
Operation Dumbo Drop

Renny Christopher



Re: films released in 1995 containing representations of the Viet Nam war
(ie combat): See the film _The Walking Dead_ (and Cythia Fuchs' review of
_The Walking Dead_ and _Panther_ in _Viet Nam Generation_ (V.7,N.1-2).

You may also be interested in checking the Sixties-l archives for the
discussion on the two films I mention above.

Steve Gomes