In this year of Bush vs. Kerry, when the campaign turns on issues of patriotism and war service, it is fascinating to go back to the Vietnam war to see the conflicts that rent American society of that time. The genesis of the film is interesting: the French public had been asked to give up a day's wages to help the Vietnamese people; finding this insufficient, Chris Marker had the idea of making a sketch film to protest the war. The problem is that the project was a collective effort: there are no credits to indicate who filmed what.
Resnais's sketch has a funny story of a stock shot of war atrocity that has been used so often that technicians call it "Gustave," and viewers look for it. Otherwise this is a silly, talky timewaster. The Godard sketch is even less effective--he uses footage from La Chinoise, the film he was working on at the time. Godard must have spent all of one afternoon on this. The purely documentary scenes come off best. The footage from the 50's must have been shot by Joris Ivens; it's wonderfully atmospheric. I wonder if he also shot the film on the American aircraft carrier as the sailors load the bombs onto the bombers that will pulverize Hanoi.
The best scenes of all were shot in New York; they show protesters from both sides of the ideological divide yelling their lungs out across police barricades. Every group and sub-group that could be imagined is represented here, and sometimes it's really funny to watch. Pity about the lack of credits.
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