Friday, June 25, 2010

Just watched... unintentionally interesting double feature of "The Hurt Locker" and "Waltz With Bashir."

Although separated in time (2004/1982) and place (Iraq/Israel and Lebanon), the two films provide glimpses into war and its atrocities in a very visceral, immediate way.

Winner of six Academy Awards, "The Hurt Locker" is an excellent cinéma-vérité study of a bomb squad in Iraq, circa 2004. Shot with hand held 16mm cameras, it has the feeling of a documentary but the texture of a psychological profile. To speak of this film properly, I feel I would need to write a book about the war, why we are there, the men and women fighting there and the Iraqi citizens, both innocents and insurgents. The film is connected to large, difficult issues that are not only political, but also spiritual as well. The ultimate point of the film though, as we are told, is that war is a drug... a drug that can generate an addiction. And our main character is a junkie, needing the adrenaline rush of disabling bombs and the validation his service in the squad brings him.

The Academy Award nominated "Waltz With Bashir" was an unexpected gem of a film. I was surprised to discover that it is an animated film--but certainly not a "cartoon." The animation is stark, artistic, quite dark, and looks as though it was rotoscoped. I have since learned that Israeli animator Yoni Goodman invented a new animation technique using Adobe Flash cutouts (each drawing was sliced into hundreds of pieces and moved in relation to one another). The technique renders a startling 3D effect in many scenes.

The story is a documentary about Israeli writer and director Ari Folman trying to recover lost memories of his time fighting in Lebanon. He was present for the 1982 massacre at the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps but cannot remember being there. He visits friends, fellow soldiers, psychologists and others in an attempt to piece together what he did there. The end of the film shockingly switches to actual archival footage of the aftermath of the massascres. This technique reminded me tangentially of the moment in the classic short French film "La Jetée" where the montage of still pictures is disorientingly interrupted by a tiny section of live action film. It was effective then and is still effective in "Waltz With Bashir."

Recommend? Yes, both of them.

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