' ' Cinema Romantico: Real Life vs. Cinema

Friday, April 07, 2006

Real Life vs. Cinema

Okay. We were going to wind up here eventually. Everybody knew it. September 11 was going to be addressed dramatically in film at some point and the time has arrived.

This April director Paul Greengrass (of the absolutely excellent “Bourne Supremacy”) will release “United 93” – a supposed real-time account of said flight which, as we all know, did not reach its intended target that horrible and fateful day and crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside. I have finally become acquainted with the preview and it is gripping. Richard Roeper (of Ebert & Roeper) was quoted as saying it is “one of the most effective trailers I’ve ever seen”. But this trailer has apparently rubbed many people the wrong way. I’ve read that at movies showing this preview people have booed and hollered comments such as, “Too soon”. I can only imagine what they’ll holler when previews begin appearing for Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center” – which will be released this fall.

People, we were aware this would happen. The most obvious parallel to the attack of September 11 was the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I recall people saying in the wake of September 11 that it took years before a movie was actually made addressing Pearl Harbor.

Uh, wrong.

The legendary director John Ford’s take on the event – “December 7, 1941” – was released less than a year later. The Humphrey Bogart film “Across the Pacific” which addresses Pearl Harbor was released in 1943, as was the movie “Remember Pearl Harbor”. My math skills are weak but “United 93” and “World Trade Center” are actually being released much longer after the event than that trio I’ve just mentioned. The first serious takes on the Vietnam War (“The Deer Hunter” and “Coming Home”) came about 5 years after the war – where America was concerned – ended, which is right on par with the duo of 9/11-themed films.

To fully comprehend the events of that day, it must be studied at its simplest terms. We must see it not merely through the context of news footage but on a true human scale. One person affected – one story at a time. In the years following World War II, Italian filmmakers begin the neo-realism movement. These films mirrored the rough life in Italy after the war and also showed what life would have been like during the war. These filmmakers were tired of the lavish costume epics and broad comedies and wanted people to dig deeper and think harder. It created some of the finest films ever made (I've already written about Rossellini's "Stromboli" a couple times). While September 11 is perhaps not a precise parallel of World War II, it may very well be time for America to do the same. These types of films are not always easy to watch, but they are important.

Many people in this country may not agree and that’s fine. They have every right to think so. They also have the right to not attend the films if they so choose.


Rory Larry said...

Technically there are several films before "Deer Hunter" that deal seriously with the subject matter of Vietnam, including a famous documentary from 1974 called "Hearts and Minds".

Anonymous said...

Pearl Harbor was a military attack that killed mainly military personnel. Military personnel were only around 5% of 9/11 victims. And Pearl Harbor was the start of a definable war. 9/11 was a terrorist attack that can't be traced to "those people with that definable border hate us." 9/11 is different. Not that it's too early, but it's different. It's easier to understand killing military people than it is slitting women's throats to get attention on the airplanes.