Regarding Peter Stevenson’s Dec. 31 letter, “As influential as ‘Rashomon’ “: Stevenson apparently didn’t comprehend my Dec. 17 letter, “Nothing can save war movie,” in which I stated categorically that all war movies are rubbish!
War films trivialize the horrors of war and that is almost criminal. Or worse, films like “Top Gun” serve no other purpose than to support local military recruiting centers in Small Town, America, or promote an inflated sense of patriotism. Why must Americans link patriotism to war so often?
Stevenson’s rebuttal missed the point of my letter. Perhaps he’s an ardent Clint Eastwood fan. The only war film I’ve ever enjoyed was the movie version of Joseph Heller’s black comedy “Catch-22.” Both the novel and the film attempt to capture the absurdity, madness and darkness of war. And unlike Eastwood, Heller was a World War II combat veteran.
His writings were based on the grim reality of his experience flying bombing missions against Nazi Germany. He flew 60 combat missions as a bombardier in Europe. He went on to receive a master of arts degree at Columbia University in 1949 and later was a Fulbright scholar at Oxford. Heller was an American patriot who despised war. There is no mawkish sentimentality in his war-related novel.
Movie critics have already lambasted the Eastwood film (“Letters From Iwo Jima”) for appealing to the audience’s naivete and need for melodrama. Heller was a prophet. Eastwood and his movie studio seek profit. Hollywood is an industrial site, not an art studio or a writer’s workshop. No confusion here. War is hell and Eastwood fails to make that clear, but then he’s just a movie director. Film directors have to pull their punches when they make war movies. The public couldn’t stomach the truth of war. And the public pays good money to be entertained. It is obscene that anyone would think war “entertaining.” No, I’m not a war veteran like Heller; I’m just a war orphan.
Finally, how could any erudite individual compare Eastwood to a literary genius like Akutagawa Ryunosuke? I think even Eastwood would blush at such a comparison.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.