Here and there I snatch pieces of paradise. The biography of late film critic Pauline Kael (New Yorker, New York Times and five books of her own best sellers) had written a piece about “Mash,” The Robert Altman Film, saying Altman made a much needed departure from the stiff, staged, slowly paced movies where audiences were spoon fed every piece of dialogue, as if we were children in Kindergarten. She found this kind of filmmaking insulting.
She realized, when she saw the film “Mash,” you can get a message across with less. The overlapping dialogue of officers barking out ridiculous commands and simultaneously being agreed to without question…you could have put a suicide vest on someone and ordered him to detonate it and it would have exploded by the time the officer finished giving his orders!
Or the mish mash of one word utterances in the army base operating room with medical improv a substitute for sufficient equipment, transfusible fluids, nurses anesthesia and other supplies.
Just how quickly we grow accustomed to terrible food and blood everywhere; even asking a Chaplain to hold a retractor in surgery on a live soldier rather than give last rights to someone already dead. We saw the stupidity of our military system and how tenuous is our hold on life. It’s amazing the lengths we’ll go to pray, screw, make gruesome jokes, drink it away in order to hang on to what little remains.
Without understanding all that was said, Altman made his point, over and over again. Last night, by the time the film ended, I grabbed the Pauline Kael book “A Life in the Dark,” read thirty more pages, including a chapter on her entire experience with the film “Last Tango In Paris.” She said that Brando’s performance in the Bertolucci film made his work in “The Godfather” look like “Child’s Play.”
My best friend just bought the dvd and we have plans to see it. Now, thanks to Pauline Kael’s book, I know what I’m in for. And I don’t know if I’ll be able to stomach it. She says they pushed the envelope very far.