In the Monthly Review blog, Pankaj Mehta offers a poingnant critique of Letters from Iwo Jima, the Clint Eastwood film that has my nod for best picture at this weekend's Oscars. Lauding the film as “political art at its best”, Mehta draws our attention towards Eastwood's refusal to play nice. In ignoring Hollywood's rules (at least some of them), he is able to create a war film far more relevant than most.
“The production of any cultural product — and I include both movies and histories in this category — is subject to underlying economic, political, and cultural realities of the society that produces them… War movies, as both historical artifact and cinema, are even more constrained by the societies that produce them than other genres of films. Thus, it is not surprising that most Hollywood war films possess a common grammar: war is war as experienced by American soldiers; victories are American victories and losses American losses.
“The rules of any grammar constrain what can and cannot be communicated. Hollywood's grammar is no exception. Letters is striking precisely because it disregards Hollywood's grammatical rules and, as a result, achieves a level of intellectual and emotional honesty about war rarely seen.”
If you plan on checking out the film before the post-Oscar rush, it's worth boning up on the history of the battle.