Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Coming Home to Iraq

The war in Iraq is a troubling thing, isn't it? However, one of the more interesting aspects of it (I say not to lessen the fact that people are dying and so forth, but I don't wanna dwell) is to see how it is represented in film. There have already been many films about the topic - and, famously, they've all flopped - so while there are still films on the horizon that look promising (Kathryn Bigelow's Hurt Locker for example) I am wondering what type of films the industry will produce once the war is over. Whenever that may be.

Just the other night I sat down and watched the 1978 Hal Ashby film Coming Home. Starring Jon Voight as a wheelchair-bound Vietnam War veteran and a post-"Hanoi Jane" Jane Fonda. I don't know if it was deliberate that they cast Fonda, considering just five years earlier she had been involved in a scandal involving herself being photographed inside Vietnamese territory simulating the use of an air rifle. But, I suppose, if you're going to make a film that is an indictment against a war you may as well cast one of said war's most famous opponents.

Fonda, it must be said, is truly excellent and so is Voight. He is another one of those actors who came to prominence in the 1970s that I never particularly warmed to. You know the ones - your Dustin Hoffmans and your Gene Hackmans and so forth. Good actors, but the "everyman" thing doesn't quite work for me. Yet, while I'm a little iffy on Fonda's Oscar win for Best Actress (I think I'm still partial to Geraldine Page in Woody Allen's Interiors) for this film, Voight's final scene alone was worthy of the statue. How Bruce Dern managed an Oscar nomination for his... loud (yes that's a good word) performance is beyond me, though. It's a great movie and one that I hadn't been able to find on DVD for quite some time, but relished the opportunity when it popped up on television.

Watching Coming Home though really did make me wonder what filmmakers will come up in the years following the end of the Iraq war. Coming Home was released three years after the end of the Vietnam War. And, yet, considering the landscape we live in today I think it is perhaps fair to say that the writers and directors who are making Iraq-themed movies are making the exact sort of films that they would be making if the war was over today. I don't quite buy the argument that people are going to see movies like Stop Loss because they are sick and tired of hearing about the war - when was the last time the war was mentioned on the news, even? Quite a while, at least down here. So, maybe we'll find that unlike World War II and the Vietnam War the Iraq conflict just won't produce much earth-shattering cinema.

Moving on to something a bit less serious, how hilarious is it that this foreign poster [src]] for The Hurt Locker references Bigelow's Patrick Swayze/Keanu Reeves surfing movie Point Break?!?


elgringo said...

I'll be the first to say it, the war has to end in order to make post-war films.

I didn't want to watch Stop Loss because it looked like a not-so-great film.

Did you ever see "The War at Home" with Emilio Estevez, Charlie Sheen, and Kathy Bates? That was another interesting (although not very entertaining) post-war film. Although, TWAH was release in the mid-90s.

leah said...

go kathryn! (i've been hoping kath will rally for ages, damn that turgid submarine movie)

'coming home' is a good movie but i'm not a huge fan, i'm much more of 'the deer hunter' ilk, though 'deer hunter' is set both during and post-war so perhaps it's not comparable, strictly speaking.

here's hoping someone will at least come up with something as memorable as 'three kings' managed to be in relation to 'gulf war version 1', if and when 'gulf war version 2' finally ends...

RJ said...

Actually, Fonda is in it because she is basically the reason it was made. She produced it and cast it and picked the director, etc . . .

Boyd said...

I like the Italian poster. It says "Only cut the red wire" at the top, and, at the bottom, "Cursed be the country that needs heroes"... I don't think you'd ever see that on a US poster!