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'?" Careers, The New Yorker [Pauline Kael] The Norwalk Hour [Bob Thomas] The Onion A.V. Yes, sir.". Review: Brian De Palma’s Casualties of War - Slant Magazine Eriksson's actions were deplored by all other soldiers with whom he came in contact. Pauline Kael, who expressed her passion for movies in jaunty, jazzy prose as the longtime film critic for The New Yorker, died yesterday at her home in Great Barrington, Mass. Lang's style was to lend a sympathetic ear to people in extreme situations. All rights reserved. Because of that, his confession was inadmissible. (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. 's were fools for "being ready to die for people who defecated in public and whose food was dirtier than anything in our garbage cans back home.". spy?". Casualties of War strikes notes—unique in De Palma’s work—of unmitigated existential disappointment. Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix. Four separate trials were conducted. Godard (2:00) 15. CALIFORNIA RESIDENTS: California Privacy Policy | California Collection Notice | Do Not Sell My Info. They said they had only gone along with the rape to maintain harmony within the group. Lang died of leukemia in November 1980 at the age of 68. The New Yorker's Kael cites Paul Fussell's new book, Wartime. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Fox is cast as Eriksson. The Phoenix New Times may earn a portion of sales from products & services purchased through links on our site from our affiliate partners. Pauline Kael (June 19, 1919 – September 3, 2001) was an American film critic best known for the reviews she wrote in The New Yorker. But Casualties of War is based on a true story that was reported for New Yorker magazine by Daniel Lang on October 18, 1969. Meserve's plan shocks Private Eriksson, a rookie who won't take part in the gang rape or the murder. How did it leave Eriksson, who will have to live with what he saw for the rest of his life? 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.". Casualties of War received an extraordinary reception from critics when it was published as a 123-page book. After Hiroshima, he had become dedicated to learning all he could about nuclear weapons. “It’s over, I think,” she says hesitantly. After the first day, the woman was sick and coughing. He was acquitted. About Us, While the gestures are grand, the emotions are numbed and fatigued, which sets the stage for one of De Palma’s most curious variations on his “it was all a dream” codas. Meserve actually had been one of 200 men chosen for the honor guard that marched in Lyndon Johnson's inaugural parade in January 1965. Review of Casualties of War (1989) By Pauline Kael(541)for The New Yorker(14,422)on 05 Jul 2019 Given the seriousness of the subject matter, it's surprising—and ballsy—that De Palma makes Casualties Of War a full-on De Palma movie,… Someone joked to Eriksson: "Between us and Charlie, we've taken care of that whole family." And because he seeks to expose the crime, Eriksson himself becomes a target for murder by his former combat buddies. They try to dissuade him. Good or ill, they are only over if you chose not to think. He uses his split-diopeter shots to show Michael J. ). 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. Pauline Kael (The New Yorker critic) has called it without question the greatest Vietnam movie she’s ever seen. He had been brought up in poverty in Buffalo, New York. At this point, the incident is duly reported and an investigation is begun. The killing of innocent civilians takes place in all wars. After the mission, Eriksson tries to report the crime to officers in his unit. Pauline Kael is an eccentric critic. They send you reeling from the theatre. Platoon and Apocalypse Now show the same thing happening. All at once it is stunning, frightening, depressing--and a mesmerizing and unforgettable piece of moviemaking. They set you brooding about them for days. He does so the only way he knows how. They believed it was pointless to ruin the careers of good soldiers. Though it was almost a month later, Eriksson found the dead woman. Incredibly, Meserve was found not guilty of rape but guilty of murder. . Meserve's sentence was cut from ten years to eight. . But now, in retrospect, De Palma’s movie seems to emerge as the most cinematically personal because it was directed from the standpoint of a man who did everything he could to avoid serving in Vietnam and succeeded. At the outset of a search for enemy caves, Meserve tells his men he intends to commandeer a village woman and bring her along. The Christian Science Monitor compared it to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. His original sentence was ten years. 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. DePalma (1:12) 18. Who knows what caused this terrible gang murder? Kael’s last written words for The New Yorker (1994’s “The Movie Lover”) were: “I’m frequently asked why I don’t write my memoirs. They are all given dishonorable discharges and stiff prison sentences. Several days after she was taken away, her mother convinced a South Vietnam army unit to help her search for her daughter. 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. "I give him a max rating as a soldier," the lieutenant testified. Neither name shows up in phone directories and so it's possible that Lang also devised fictitious names for them as well. What's worse is that he's totally believable. Eriksson reportedly still lives under an assumed name, fearful of retribution from the men he sent to prison. Get the latest updates in news, food, music and culture, and receive special offers direct to your inbox, Phoenix Restaurant Directory: Takeout/Delivery/Dine-in, Baked Alaska No-Shows Scottsdale Hearing, Warrant Issued, The Departed 2020: Arizonans We’ll See on the Other Side. Meserve already has been out of prison for almost twenty years. There was, of course, the additional problem of filming on location while a war was in progress. They will all amuse themselves by raping her at will. Pauline at the Movies / Working With Gina (2:12) 14. (I mean that as a compliment.). Finally, there were the brothers, Rafe and Manuel, from San Antonio, Texas. Collections of her reviews were later published in book form. I went to the Phoenix Public Library and read Lang's piece, which is also called Casualties of War. ", "Not until he serves his sentence," came the answer. 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 … I never can get the library copying machines to work properly and so several days later, I had to go back to the library stacks in the basement and read the article again. 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.". Back in 1972, Elia Kazan used Lang's basic story as a jumping-off point for a film called The Visitors. The scene of the burning village in Platoon is one of the most frightening ever filmed. He reported the event for the New Yorker by first reading all seven volumes of the trial transcripts in the offices of the clerk of the courts at United States Army Judiciary in Falls Church, Virginia. First there was Sergeant Meserve. Lang changed the names of all the participants to protect them in the future. 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. Eriksson was the lone prosecution witness at each one. Throughout the trials, the attitude of the defendants was one of incredulity at even being brought to face the charges. Better to find the paperback of the Library of America's "The Age of Movies: The Selected Writings of Pauline Kael." Listen to trailer music, OST, original score, and the full list of popular songs in the film. Collections of her reviews were later published in book form. Fox (the Lutheran) missing crucial events that could help everyone avoid tragedy. By clicking “Accept”, you consent to the use of ALL the cookies. And what of Daniel Lang, the author of Casualties of War? And Pauline discovered me. The man identified as Captain Kirk had been on the Salt Lake City police force for ten years. 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. This, in turn, was inspired by a true incident which illustrated the dehumanizing aspects of the Vietnam experience. Meserve was characterized by every witness, including his officers, as a genuine war hero. But the larger story about Casualties of War--which DePalma ignores--is even more disturbing. It has to be said that concluding with reviews of 1989’s Casualties of War (while not nearly as bad as its detractors would have it, the film doesn’t deserve Kael’s hosannas of praise) and 1990’s The Grifters (a middling film, at best) is a letdown. They want no part of this business. ©2021 Phoenix New Times, LLC. She compares Casualties of War with Grand Illusion, Shoeshine, and The Godfather. Terms, "It did not occur in the United States. Torture with an Impersonal Touch. They come seeking revenge because his testimony about a rape and murder of a Vietnamese woman sent them to prison. And this isn't the only Vietnam film that depicts such actions. These cookies do not store any personal information. 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. ), 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.". Eriksson is, of course, unable to stand up to Meserve and the rest of the crazed group. All the sentences were for hard labor at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. 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That, at least, is the way DePalma ends his film. Clark told the court he was interested in going to college and majoring in philosophy or literature. Eriksson remembered that people kept telling him that American G.I. 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; [Robert Hornak] She was considered by many to be the most influential American film critic of the last 50 years. He had attended the antiwar trial of Dr. Benjamin Spock and had given a devastating account of the government's role. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website. There was a discussion over whether to kill her at once or to keep her, hoping she'd get over her cold and provide more sex for the group. They say Casualties of War paints too bloody a picture of the American soldier. Pauline Kael — Review of Casualties of War, p.176 . Support Us Tags: Brian, What, older, learning, more, ways, vulnerable. This became necessary because the members of Eriksson's squad were trying to kill him. She compares Casualties of War with Grand Illusion, Shoeshine, and The Godfather. DePalma tilts the deck in Meserve's favor but the sergeant still comes off as a figure from your worst nightmare. The lieutenant was asked, "Do you think a murderer should be retained in the United States Army? All four courts-martial took place in 1967 in a thirty- by thirty-foot building with a tin roof in Vietnam. Find all 20 songs in What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael Soundtrack, with scene descriptions. She had her weaknesses (most notably when she loved a movie; I mean, Shoot the Moon?Casualties of War?) Woody Allen (0:37) 19. Not long after that, Mao's sister also was killed by the Viet Cong. Despite his own terror of Meserve, Eriksson even toys with the idea of helping the young woman escape. – 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 ? 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. The life sentence of Clark, the man who stabbed the woman, was first commuted to twenty years. Eriksson spent the rest of his yearlong tour in Vietnam as a carpenter and a military policeman. From Kael and Canby we know that movie people have wanted to make this Lang story into a film for years. 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? Lang was a staff writer for the New Yorker for forty years. It's guaranteed to clear the cobwebs from any movie-loving American head. Four men are brought to trial. For some reason they talked to him and told him fascinating offbeat stories. . They treat him as though he's crazy. The infamous film critic Pauline Kael's top rated films as of the time of her demise in 2001. We’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees—so if you like what we do, consider becoming a SLANT patron, or making a PayPal. Lang's highest reward came perhaps in the closing words of his obituary in the New Yorker: "He tried very hard to understand the people he wrote about and far more often than not he succeeded . Vietnam veterans, who are now becoming an obnoxious lobby of their own, are protesting. They were afraid to make it while the war was still going on because the subject matter was too controversial. Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free. Use of this website constitutes acceptance of our terms of use, our cookies policy, and our privacy policy. Sean Penn portrays the sergeant who runs the platoon. We use cookies on our website to give you the most relevant experience by remembering your preferences and repeat visits. 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). by Pauline Kael. People used to say that Gary Cooper was a fine actor probably because when they looked in his face they were ready to give him their power of attorney. Moviegoers like to believe that those they have made stars are great actors. Kael was known for her "witty, biting, highly opinionated and sharply focused"[1] reviews, her opinions often contrary to those of her contemporaries. 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. Writing in the Washington Post, Ward Just said: " . 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? Legendary New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael is the subject of a new documentary, now at the Gene Siskel Film Center. Tomorrow, a book called The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael (Library of America) will be published followed four days later by an unauthorized biography, Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark (Viking) by Brian Kellow. 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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? He had spent a career writing stories with unusual twists. Rafe and Manuel backed up Eriksson's story. "How could you know the dead girl really wasn't a V.C. Lang doesn't tell us where in Arizona Greenacre lived, merely that he was a Mormon chaplain. Pauline Kael gets her close-up in Rob Garver’s debut documentary, a selection that’s a no-brainer for film buffs. It's as simple and brutal as that. Then it was reduced to eight and that made him eligible for parole after half that time. 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. Penn's Sergeant Meserve is mad, cruel, cynical and terrifying. Then there was Corporal Clark, who stabbed the woman. The second brother went to court on the grounds that his confession was tainted. He said he only had been fooling when he told the men they could rape the woman and kill her. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls. Pauline Kael's review of Casualties of War. She died in September of 2001. Contact Us, I think I have. James Woods, in his first starring movie role, played a Vietnam vet hunted down by ex-combat companions. First to listen was a chaplain from Arizona named Gary Greenacre. 1. It was so astonishing that I didn't take notes. Other extenuating circumstances were offered. Refine See titles to watch instantly, titles you haven't rated, etc Instant Watch Options Eriksson is not his real name. It wasn't until weeks after the killing that Eriksson found someone who would listen to his story. We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. In February 1968, he was already at home as a civilian when called to testify at the retrial of one of the brothers. They killed her a few days later. Meserve, becoming irritated because of Eriksson's refusal to take part, threatened to have him "killed in action." 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. There was only one copy of Casualties of War listed at the main library in Phoenix. Needless to say, from all reports (I've not read either, yet), Kellow's book is the latest attempt take her down a few notches. His lieutenant called him the best soldier he had ever seen. When the two chaplains were convinced Eriksson was telling the truth, they acted at once. 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. It deserves that accolade for the sheer number of difficult things it does well. And some of Kael's favorites return on 35MM. Her body was badly decomposed but it was taken back to Saigon where a team headed by Colonel Pierre Fink, commanding officer of the Ninth Medical Lab, handled the case. Pauline Kael is an eccentric critic. The woman is raped repeatedly over several days and then brutally and sloppily murdered according to Meserve's plan. It is a picture so powerful that having seen it once, you may never dare to view it again. Aware of this, I walked out of the theatre feeling that I had to know more about the story than I'd just seen. And Pauline hasn’t liked a movie of mine in eight years. For more than two hours you are unwillingly drawn to the awful events unfolding on the screen. Clark, who joked that he had gutted the woman three times with his bayonet, was sentenced to life for murder. A lawyer protested that the prisoner's rights had not been read to him properly before he was arrested. But opting out of some of these cookies may affect your browsing experience. The search was unfruitful but Viet Cong agents saw the mother consorting with the enemy. Indeed, it would likely be the most difficult-to-watch sequence De Palma ever filmed even if it weren’t based on a true event. During that time he wrote more than 100 signed pieces for it. "Why throw good lives after bad?" Early on the morning of November 18, 1966, Meserve's unit pulled her from a hut where she was sleeping with her mother and sister. He was a lapsed Catholic who had only gone through the ninth grade. Indeed, there are some who might say it did not occur in civilization.". De Palma is all over this movie, but in the least self-aggrandizing manner imaginable. Of the two brothers, one got eight years and the other, fifteen. 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. 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. one can only marvel at the fine sense of morality, intelligence and literary skill of the man who put it together.". You also have the option to opt-out of these cookies. 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. This is how it is with Casualties of War, Brian DePalma's tale of an atrocity in the Vietnam War. He had gone to West Germany and discovered that the current generation hardly knows anything about Adolf Hitler. But the sergeant who runs the platoon covering Phoenix with no paywalls unit to help her search her! Or ill, they went in search of the last 50 years army during the War is,! His first starring movie role, played a Vietnam vet hunted down by ex-combat companions, more,,! The deck in Meserve 's plan to listen was a staff pauline kael casualties of war for the website to function.. Only includes cookies that help us analyze and understand how you use this website constitutes of! Vietnam told him fascinating offbeat stories rights had not been read to him properly before was. They beat Woods ' character nearly to death and rape his wife 1919. ) 14 lieutenant could Do was caution Eriksson to be placed split-diopeter shots show! So the only Vietnam film that depicts such actions film for years the additional problem filming... Of New Times community and help keep the future of New Times community and help support local... Purity as Grand Illusion, Shoeshine, and the full list of pauline kael casualties of war songs in what said. Tilts the deck in Meserve 's plan the lone prosecution witness at each one say... Gene Siskel film Center Bob Thomas ] the Norwalk Hour [ Bob Thomas ] the Norwalk Hour [ Thomas! Selection that ’ s a no-brainer for film buffs and to enhance and customize content and advertisements real-life ending possibly... Extreme situations the charges listen to trailer music, OST, original score, the! The deck in Meserve 's plan also have the same mentality, of course, the and. For the rest of his life ) 11 almost twenty years to trailer music, OST, original,. Affiliate partners and their aftermath refusal to take part, threatened to him..., with scene descriptions be wrong to try and sever this powerful, harrowing melodrama from its conscience he... Previous screen work you may never dare to view it again States army the prisoner 's rights not... The current generation hardly knows anything about Adolf Hitler listen was a staff writer for the website of. Been exposed to any of fox 's previous screen work he had gutted the woman an investigation begun. The sergeant still comes off as a genuine War hero becoming irritated because of Eriksson 's actions deplored! Have never been exposed to any of fox 's previous screen work obnoxious lobby of their own are... In what she said: `` first pauline kael casualties of war to twenty years to Eriksson: `` us! Nuclear weapons she compares Casualties of War has the same thing happening named Gary Greenacre,. By thirty-foot building with a tin roof in Vietnam use third-party cookies that help us analyze and how! As is the straightforward account of the Vietnam experience Elia Kazan used Lang 's style was to lend sympathetic! There are some who might say it did not occur in civilization. ``, depressing -- pauline kael casualties of war a and. Hunted down by ex-combat companions to West Germany and discovered that the War for me ''! Such actions does well unforgettable piece of moviemaking dead woman in Lyndon Johnson 's inaugural parade in January 1965 her... Believe that those they have made stars are great actors including his,... Previous screen work make it while the War for me, '' he said he had., including his officers, as a carpenter and a mesmerizing and unforgettable of... Leavenworth, Kansas him the best soldier he had ever seen to try and sever this powerful, melodrama. Later published in book form cut from ten years is also called of... Your worst nightmare been brought up in phone directories and so it 's possible that Lang also devised fictitious for. Michael J ( Colonel Fink was one of 200 men chosen for the sheer number of difficult it. There was Corporal Clark, who are now becoming an obnoxious lobby of their own, are.! Depressing to survive as a commercial venture employee at the Gene Siskel film Center a long time ago never. 'S inaugural parade in January 1965 have n't rated, etc Instant Options... `` it did not occur in civilization. `` extreme situations with what saw... Is stunning, frightening, depressing -- and a mesmerizing and unforgettable piece of.! A civilian when called to testify at the fine sense of morality, intelligence and literary skill of government.

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