18 July 2010


Have you seen this film?  It's an odd little thing. River is in fine form as a cocky marine who is intrigued by Lili Taylor's earnest and hearfelt expression and dreams. I enjoy it for many reasons; it's set in San Francisco just before the war in Vietnam. I love Lili's character Rose, I was heartbroken and outraged at the premise of the marines pooling their money and winning a cash-prize for the ugliest date. The music is fantastic and not the most obvious of folk songs you would normally expect to hear, they briefly stop by City Lights too which is always great. I would give anything to have been around SanFran during the heyday of the Beats.

It's also interesting because of people's attitude toward Vietnam and seeing how Ed (River) deals with returning to a very different SanFran a changed man, and people's reaction to him being a marine (ranging from quiet respect to arrogant criticism "how many babies did you kill?").
I knew someone who fought in the Vietnam war and over the course of 3 or 4 years he quietly told me some stories of his experience, killing people and retrieving the bodies of friends whilst being shot at, of how he was treated upon his return. I don't know why he told me, his family were amazed and said he never talks about it, never brings it up.  Perhaps it's easier to confess to someone who isn't as close to you as your own family.

It was shocking and horrible to hear firsthand stories from someone I knew as a very different person now decades later with a family. I was surprised to hear how he was treated by people when he came back and it's great that this was hinted at in the film too. Of course, no one likes the idea of war. I was always uncomforable and confused looking at war monuments inscribed with 'our glorious dead' as though there is anything glorious about fighting and killing.

I guess it was the exposure to this Vietnam veteran and watching some films about the people that go to war that changed the perception for me from war being this 'thing' to war having the most darkest and traumatic human face.
I still don't agree with it, but now I understand a bit more about the mentality of the people who fight in them, well...at least the ones who were too young and had no choice because they were conscripted and everyone was going.

I don't know how you get over something like that and some people never do. I am amazed when I meet people now who voluntarily sign up to the armed services, I love asking them questions about their motivation and why and what they hope to achieve from their experience. I try my best not to pass judgement on them and I think my complete fascination makes them comfortable with being honest with me.

How about you? Is there anyone you know who has war stories? It's amazing speaking to people who lived through very different times than me, like living time-capsules. It was amazing speaking to Palestinians about their experiences and day-to-day life in the occupied territories, it was a priveledge sitting down with them and walking through the streets, seeing a lot of it for myself. I only had a week there but it still haunts me and I can't stop thinking about it.

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