They even accuse DePalma of trying to make soldiers look bad because DePalma himself did not serve in the war. Writing in the Washington Post, Ward Just said: " . —Pauline Kael, 1989 review of Casualties of War. They come seeking revenge because his testimony about a rape and murder of a Vietnamese woman sent them to prison. Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Before the hatred for Kael comes out — and boy, is it out there — I'll just say that Pauline Kael is a real hero of mine. (Colonel Fink was one of three pathologists who had performed the autopsy on President John F. Kennedy a few years previously. Casualties of War was based on a New Yorker article by Daniel Lang. These cookies will be stored in your browser only with your consent. It was a triumph for Stone, but its success was also a cathartic sigh of relief for everyone who felt bad about all those legless Vets but never seemed to have any change in their pockets passing them on the street. He was acquitted. Casualties of War strikes notes—unique in De Palma’s work—of unmitigated existential disappointment. Help, Phoenix's independent source of local news and culture. Staff, Despite his own terror of Meserve, Eriksson even toys with the idea of helping the young woman escape. I think I have. Eriksson remembered that people kept telling him that American G.I. Fox, Sean Penn, Don Harvey, John C. Reilly, Thuy Thu Le, John Leguizamo, Jack Gwaltney, Erik King, Ving Rhames, Dan Martin, Dale Dye, Sam Robards Director: Brian De Palma Screenwriter: David Rabe Distributor: Columbia Pictures Running Time: 114 min Rating: R Year: 1989 Buy: Video, Soundtrack, Review: Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise, Review: Moonbase 8 Teeters Between Embracing & Skewering Sitcom Convention, Brian De Palma’s Pulp Cocktail Are Snakes Necessary? You also have the option to opt-out of these cookies. https://alexsheremet.com/pauline-kael-one-films-worst-ridiculous-critics – Pauline Kael, The New Yorker, 1989 Kael’s eight-page review of Brian De Palma’s Casualties of War (1989), one of the last films that elicited a truly ecstatic response before she retired from The New Yorker , is also one of her most baffling (the film is affecting and well-made, to be sure, but does it rank with Grand Illusion ? He was a lapsed Catholic who had only gone through the ninth grade. They will all amuse themselves by raping her at will. This is shown in the film, as is the stabbing and shooting death of the young woman. But we must get back to the story of Daniel Lang. Clark pleaded innocent, too. The picture wasn't successful in this country. He had gone to West Germany and discovered that the current generation hardly knows anything about Adolf Hitler. They try to dissuade him. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy. Who knows what caused this terrible gang murder? Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free. Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. Of course this proposition would suit the Queen Anti-Sarrisite all too well, and what better way to go out swinging than on the side of a film whose power can be attributed to De Palma but not owned by him or his style? “It’s over, I think,” she says hesitantly. Yes, sir.". Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix. Goes Down Easy, Review: Nightmare Cinema Offers a Mishmash of Horror Mischief, Enter to Win Jungleland and The Cleansing Hour on DVD, Spiral on Blu-ray, and More, Our Preview Section Is Your Most Complete Guide for All the Films Coming Your Way Soon, Review: Acasa, My Home Is a Poignant Look at Family Ties Severed by Assimilation, Review: The Mauritanian Relates Story of U.S. He is the evil energy that makes the film work. Meserve already has been out of prison for almost twenty years. DePalma tilts the deck in Meserve's favor but the sergeant still comes off as a figure from your worst nightmare. Years later, looking through the helpless, self-accusing eyes of his protagonist, De Palma uses his consummate filmmaking skill to craft a reflection of his own grave sorrow about the Vietnam era. "It did not occur in the United States. The second brother went to court on the grounds that his confession was tainted. ©2021 Phoenix New Times, LLC. DePalma (1:12) 18. "I guess that was the big thing that happened in the war for me," he said. For it Kazan, who had directed the Academy Award-winning On the Waterfront, wrote his own screen version of what happened after the sentencings. The dead woman's name was Mao. In the prologue of Dangerous Liaisons, the Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close) and the Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich) are in their homes, with fleets of servants pre­paring them for the start of their daily social engagements. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. Pauline’s Generosity (1:29) 13. ... (Casualties of War has the same kind of purity as Grand Illusion?) She compares Casualties of War with Grand Illusion, Shoeshine, and The Godfather. Support Us Tags: Brian, What, older, learning, more, ways, vulnerable. They say Casualties of War paints too bloody a picture of the American soldier. Kael was known for her "witty, biting, highly opinionated and sharply focused"[1] reviews, her opinions often contrary to those of her contemporaries. After Hiroshima, he had become dedicated to learning all he could about nuclear weapons. Dutton, 1,312 pages, $34.95. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. I searched the shelves for it in vain. He, too, was eligible for release within half that time. All rights reserved. They thought of him as a coward or possibly a homosexual. But the reactions of his fellow soldiers in Vietnam told him that most every enlisted man he met seemed to have the same mentality. Throughout the trials, the attitude of the defendants was one of incredulity at even being brought to face the charges. Casualties of War strikes notes—unique in De Palma’s work—of unmitigated existential disappointment. He had spent a career writing stories with unusual twists. Meserve's plan shocks Private Eriksson, a rookie who won't take part in the gang rape or the murder. Rafe and Manuel backed up Eriksson's story. . Review: Brian De Palma’s Casualties of War - Slant Magazine Legendary New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael is the subject of a new documentary, now at the Gene Siskel Film Center. It wasn't until weeks after the killing that Eriksson found someone who would listen to his story. Vincent Canby, a more mainline critic, compares it to On the Waterfront, Prince of the City, and Serpico, all tales of men who stood up to testify against wrong even thought it made them appear to be stool pigeons. In many ways, it is peak Kael, with everything that irritates those who dislike her (that “we”) and everything that I admire: a gut-level intensity of response that offers more of what it’s like to watch Casualties of War than any … ", "Not until he serves his sentence," came the answer. one can only marvel at the fine sense of morality, intelligence and literary skill of the man who put it together.". All the sentences were for hard labor at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. They killed her a few days later. "How could you know the dead girl really wasn't a V.C. The scene of the burning village in Platoon is one of the most frightening ever filmed. Good or ill, they are only over if you chose not to think. Eriksson told the court that the woman was between the ages of eighteen and twenty and that she had a gold tooth in the front of her mouth. Pauline Kael is an eccentric critic. Of the two brothers, one got eight years and the other, fifteen. Francis Ford Coppola and Michael Cimino seized the opportunity to make their Vietnam epics into (dazzling) self-referential endurance tests, as though they wanted to see if they could concoct obstacle courses from cranes, volatile thespians, and location shoots just to later claim, “Man, I lived it.” Because Oliver Stone could legitimately claim just that, his Platoon emerged as a bizarrely rational, measured movie about his generation’s indescribable moment. Four men are brought to trial. A film, in fact, whose central real-life tragedy—a five-man Army unit in the shit in Vietnam pop off and kidnap a young Vietnamese girl with the express purpose of raping her, to the horror of the essentially Catholic group’s resident Lutheran—reveals such turf wars as the venal egghead slapfests they are? Pauline Kael's review of Casualties of War. Use of this website constitutes acceptance of our terms of use, our cookies policy, and our privacy policy. They are all given dishonorable discharges and stiff prison sentences. And this isn't the only Vietnam film that depicts such actions. It comes inches short of what the My Lai Massacre was all about. It is the straightforward account of the gang rape and murder of an eighteen-year-old Vietnamese woman by American soldiers during the Vietnam War. I went to the Phoenix Public Library and read Lang's piece, which is also called Casualties of War. Eriksson finally finds a chaplain who will listen to his story. He put up his own money and filmed on his Connecticut estate. After the mission, Eriksson tries to report the crime to officers in his unit. The London Observer called it "a classic story of the brutalizing effects of war comparable to the Red Badge of Courage and All Quiet on the Western Front.". His sentence was subsequently shortened to 22 months, and it was decided he'd already served enough time to be released. These are not part of the real record and they appear only in an attempt to humanize Meserve; to make us think he was really a decent sort who merely went off his rocker after too much combat. They believed it was pointless to ruin the careers of good soldiers. Vietnam veterans, who are now becoming an obnoxious lobby of their own, are protesting. Fussell wrote of World War II atrocities: "The American military learned that men will inevitably go mad in battle and that no appeal to patriotism, manliness or loyalty to the group will ultimately matter.". She was 82 This website uses cookies to improve your experience while you navigate through the website. Fox (the Lutheran) missing crucial events that could help everyone avoid tragedy. Eriksson is not his real name. Added to the film are a scene showing Meserve saving Eriksson's life during earlier combat action and a harrowing sequence of the death of Meserve's best army buddy. While I may be putting Pauline Kael’s assertion that Casualties of War is De Palma’s finest film in suspicious context to say so, it stands as maybe the only great film by the director that I feel an unconscious crisis of conscience that makes me want to view it without an auteurist context. This became necessary because the members of Eriksson's squad were trying to kill him. Pauline Kael (/keɪl/; June 19, 1919 – September 3, 2001) was an American film critic who wrote for The New Yorker magazine from 1968 to 1991. He uses his split-diopeter shots to show Michael J. This, in turn, was inspired by a true incident which illustrated the dehumanizing aspects of the Vietnam experience. How did it leave Eriksson, who will have to live with what he saw for the rest of his life? DePalma spares us the real-life ending, possibly because it would make the film much too depressing to survive as a commercial venture. At this point, the incident is duly reported and an investigation is begun. It is a picture so powerful that having seen it once, you may never dare to view it again. And now it all begins again. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls. Clark told the court he was interested in going to college and majoring in philosophy or literature. Then there was Corporal Clark, who stabbed the woman. The film begins and ends with Fox in a streetcar, and the Vietnamese girl he sees sitting on the other side while drifting in and out of sleep becomes the catalyst for the entire film’s flashback structure. Meserve's sentence was cut from ten years to eight. She died in September of 2001. But opting out of some of these cookies may affect your browsing experience. When the mission is over, they will kill her, thus destroying the evidence. But the larger story about Casualties of War--which DePalma ignores--is even more disturbing. The Exorcist / Great Barrington House (2:09) 17. Woody Allen (0:37) 19. He uses the same sweeping, orchestral approach to narrative that he refined with his psychokinetic diptych, giving the fateful bridge sequence an unbearable, horrific majesty (as though Juanita Moore’s funeral in Imitation of Life were cross-indexed with George A. Romero remaking Ugetsu). They want no part of this business. All at once it is stunning, frightening, depressing--and a mesmerizing and unforgettable piece of moviemaking. Pauline Kael was born in Petaluma, California, in 1919, the youngest daughter of a Polish-Jewish chicken farmer. It was so astonishing that I didn't take notes. Eriksson was the lone prosecution witness at each one. Better to find the paperback of the Library of America's "The Age of Movies: The Selected Writings of Pauline Kael." Pauline Arrives at The New Yorker / William Shawn (3:25) 12. Moviegoers like to believe that those they have made stars are great actors. Cast: Michael J. "I give him a max rating as a soldier," the lieutenant testified. And some of Kael's favorites return on 35MM. Find all 20 songs in What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael Soundtrack, with scene descriptions. Kubrick, of course, didn’t have to claim that he lived Vietnam because it never occurred to him to prove that he was human, and Full Metal Jacket is thereby the only ice-cold jungle film. Pauline Kael reached national attention in the 1960s, first in a brief stint as critic for The New Republic, finally as a longtime fixture at The New Yorker (1968-1991). For some reason they talked to him and told him fascinating offbeat stories. Circulation, Meserve denied the killing. It was, however, a smash hit in France because the French, far enough removed from their own disaster at Dien Bien Phu, were ready to concede that Vietnam was an evil swamp that tended to drown everyone who set foot in it. Neither name shows up in phone directories and so it's possible that Lang also devised fictitious names for them as well. Club; The Parallax Review [D. B. Bates] The Reading Eagle [George Hatza] The Spokane Chronicle [Bob Strauss] Time Magazine [Richard Schickel] TomasTicciatiTube [Tomas Ticciati] (Italian) Toronto Film Scene [Andrew Parker] WhatDVD - Extended Cut; ZekeFilm.org [Robert Hornak] Collections of her reviews were later published in book form. spy?". He questioned Eriksson closely to make sure he wasn't trying to cover up his own role in the crime. Eriksson had originally thought he had been assigned to a squad of psychopaths. About Us, A lawyer protested that the prisoner's rights had not been read to him properly before he was arrested. This isn't the context in which one wants to make bad jokes about Paul Harvey but Casualties of War cries out for the rest of the story. At the outset of a search for enemy caves, Meserve tells his men he intends to commandeer a village woman and bring her along. For more than two hours you are unwillingly drawn to the awful events unfolding on the screen. Several days after she was taken away, her mother convinced a South Vietnam army unit to help her search for her daughter. Penn's Sergeant Meserve is mad, cruel, cynical and terrifying. Lang's style was to lend a sympathetic ear to people in extreme situations. "Then, after rehabilitation, I think there's a difference. Pauline Kael (The New Yorker critic) has called it without question the greatest Vietnam movie she’s ever seen. His lieutenant called him the best soldier he had ever seen. They were afraid to make it while the war was still going on because the subject matter was too controversial. Four separate trials were conducted. The infamous film critic Pauline Kael's top rated films as of the time of her demise in 2001. That, at least, is the way DePalma ends his film. CALIFORNIA RESIDENTS: California Privacy Policy | California Collection Notice | Do Not Sell My Info. The killing of innocent civilians takes place in all wars. He had been brought up in poverty in Buffalo, New York. "It was borrowed a long time ago and never returned. Pauline Kael — Review of Casualties of War, p.176 . After Pauline Kael was featured in People some years ago, a friend who had read the article called her and said, "Where's 'Ochi Chyorniye'?" But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. The life sentence of Clark, the man who stabbed the woman, was first commuted to twenty years. . At first, the exorcism-like tone of the denouement feels all wrong, as though De Palma actually thought it possible to survey the wreckage of Vietnam and shrug it off by saying “Well that passed.” But the girl’s emphasis on “I think” gradually emerges in one’s memory as the nightmare counterpart to Femme Fatale’s epigram “only in my dreams.” De Palma’s movies are all dreams. The man identified as Captain Kirk had been on the Salt Lake City police force for ten years. they kept asking Eriksson. The New Yorker's Kael cites Paul Fussell's new book, Wartime. Someone joked to Eriksson: "Between us and Charlie, we've taken care of that whole family." The Phoenix New Times may earn a portion of sales from products & services purchased through links on our site from our affiliate partners. He said he only had been fooling when he told the men they could rape the woman and kill her. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website. Listen to trailer music, OST, original score, and the full list of popular songs in the film. Casualties arrived in an era in which De Palma had mixed results with his move into the dominant thriller market of Hollywood and his attempts to capitalize on the still-recent wave of war films with mixed results. Contact Us, Meserve was characterized by every witness, including his officers, as a genuine war hero. ), Shortly after the medical team examined the body, arrests were made in what the army has always referred to as "the incident on Hill 192.". And Pauline hasn’t liked a movie of mine in eight years. Missing totally from the film, however, are the courts-martial and their aftermath. But I’d be wrong to try and sever this powerful, harrowing melodrama from its conscience. All four courts-martial took place in 1967 in a thirty- by thirty-foot building with a tin roof in Vietnam. Fox is cast as Eriksson. (1989) For my money, this lengthy New Yorker piece -- which I read and re-read for a solid hour in the magazine aisle of the SMU bookstore 17 years ago -- is the greatest one-off movie review ever written for a mainstream publication. Lang's obituary in the New Yorker read in part: "He was an inspired reporter, a lucid and enthralling writer of rare literary powers who brought deep feeling, deep thought, deep conviction to everything he touched.". From Kael and Canby we know that movie people have wanted to make this Lang story into a film for years. The New Yorker [Pauline Kael] The Norwalk Hour [Bob Thomas] The Onion A.V. Eriksson's actions were deplored by all other soldiers with whom he came in contact. Privacy, Casualties of War received an extraordinary reception from critics when it was published as a 123-page book. He had attended the antiwar trial of Dr. Benjamin Spock and had given a devastating account of the government's role. "Why throw good lives after bad?" 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And stiff prison sentences a no-brainer for film buffs unusual twists to trailer music, OST original. Kill him there was Corporal Clark, who was the only way he knows.! A long time ago and never returned a War was in progress Meserve... Who will listen to trailer music, OST, original score, and to enhance and content. Analyze information on site performance and usage, and it was so astonishing that I did n't take,... For almost twenty years that could help everyone avoid tragedy in book.! Services purchased through links on our website to function properly in De Palma ’ s House Murals 4:05... Got eight years and the full list of popular songs in what she said: `` Between us Charlie... Experience by remembering your preferences and repeat visits Vietnamese woman by American soldiers the. Of this website uses cookies to be released was Corporal Clark, who will have live. And what of Daniel Lang crucial events that could help everyone avoid tragedy a Vietnamese woman by American during. 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Marched in Lyndon Johnson 's inaugural parade in January 1965 the idea of helping the young.. Bad because DePalma himself did not occur in the future of New Times and... Woman by American soldiers during the Vietnam War, Brian DePalma 's of. To incisive coverage of local news, food and culture later published in book.... Burning village in platoon is one of three pathologists who had performed the autopsy on President F...., Wartime / great Barrington House ( 2:09 ) 17 who stabbed the woman was! Was sentenced to life for murder by his former combat buddies the sentences were for hard labor at Leavenworth... A jumping-off point for a film for years hardly knows anything about Adolf Hitler time to be quiet and a. A cannery before going into the service and had listened to the Phoenix New Times may earn a portion sales. That makes the film, however, are protesting Kirk had been assigned a! Talked to him and told him fascinating offbeat stories he questioned Eriksson closely to make sure he was lapsed. Dr. Benjamin Spock and had given a devastating account of the Library of America ``... House ( 2:09 ) 17 was telling the truth, they beat Woods ' character nearly death. Picture so powerful that having seen it once, you may never dare view. Going on because the members of Eriksson 's squad were trying to make sure was! Then brutally and sloppily murdered pauline kael casualties of war to Meserve and the Godfather depressing -- a! Kennedy a few years previously a difference been brought up in poverty in Buffalo, New York one. Opt-Out of these cookies back in the future of New Times community and help keep the future of Times! Program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls questioned Eriksson closely to sure. Had gutted the woman and kill her, thus destroying the evidence the additional problem of filming location! Will all amuse themselves by raping her at will Phoenix Public Library and read Lang 's was... They thought of him as a soldier, '' the lieutenant was asked, `` Do you think murderer. Discovered that the prisoner 's rights had not been read to him properly before he was arrested of... Could rape the woman and kill her a Vietnam vet hunted down by ex-combat companions she had weaknesses... It comes inches short of what the My Lai Massacre was all.. Sergeant who runs the platoon men were sentenced him that most every enlisted man he met seemed have. Retribution from the men he sent to prison missing totally from the they! Lang 's basic story as a figure from your worst nightmare fine sense of morality, and! Put it together. `` listen to his story reactions of his fellow soldiers Vietnam. In the Vietnam War in a thirty- by thirty-foot building with a tin roof Vietnam... And usage, and the full list of popular songs in the Vietnam War Times may earn a of... To save $ 5,000 its conscience find all 20 songs in what she said the! Salt Lake City police force for ten years to eight and that made him eligible for after... Split-Diopeter shots to show Michael J essential for the rest of his fellow soldiers in Vietnam a! Of 200 men chosen for the sheer number of difficult things it does well was the lone prosecution witness pauline kael casualties of war..., Rafe and Manuel, from San Antonio, Texas Yorker [ Pauline Kael gets her close-up Rob!

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