One more link for the week: Film critic Charles Taylor, late of Salon, writes this week in the New York Observer about the release of the extended cut of Casualties of War, which he calls “Brian De Palma’s masterpiece and one of the greatest of all American movies.” This is an opinion with which I happen to concur, although I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch this film again in a very long time, despite its stylistic-thematic brilliance, because the pain it presents is so raw, inglorious and horrific. However, the arrival of this new cut is definitely an excellent occasion to submit again to the film’s agonies, its insights and, of course, its resonance and pertinence to us as we find ourselves mired, as a nation, in a new age of war.
Taylor: “It’s a blessing that it took Mr. De Palma 20 years to get the movie made (if only for the fact that he got Michael J. Fox’s phenomenal performance as Eriksson). I mean no slight to the director’s powers of discernment to say that no matter how good it might have been, a Vietnam movie on this subject released while America was still in Vietnam would have been taken as a confirmation of the self-loathing that crept into American movies during the Vietnam/Watergate era…. The plural of the title is a clue. Casualties of War remains the only American film about the Vietnam War that addresses what the Vietnamese suffered.”
If you haven’t seen Casualties of War (and the movie’s slight box-office when it was released in 1989 suggests that many haven’t), steel up your nerve and rent it. It is easily one of the most disturbing movies I’ve ever seen on any subject, a serious engagement with issues and ideas, rendered most vividly cinematic and reaching for an intended emotional and intellectual effect that most American movies would cross a crowded freeway to avoid. Taylor’s fine piece tells part of the story. The movie says it all.
(Again, thanks to David Hudson at Green Cine Daily for highlighting Taylor's article on his invaluable site.)
UPDATE 5/10 5:37 p.m.: In the Comments section below, Michael S. Smith and I both expressed a desire to know more about the differences between the original theatrical cut of Casualties of War and this new "extended cut." Thanks to the magic of the Internet, here's a link to a review of the Extended Cut DVD from DVD Times which serves as a thoughtful review of the film and a detailed account of the material that has been added. According to this article, this extended cut was approved by Brian De Palma and represents his intended version of the film.