Tuesday, March 17, 2009

M.A.S.H. (1970)

While America was in the midst of the Vietnam War, Altman chose to make a film about the Korean War. It does not have one scene of combat.

When I was a kid, I often watched reruns of M.A.S.H. on television. I had no idea that it was first a film or that it was set in Korea.

Altman's film is truly a piece of Americana. It highlights the intellectual, logical, and dedicated doctors, who are very human. Intense on the job and mischievous and loose when off. Just about everything is ripe for comment: war, racism, religion, sexism, feminism, science, and politics.

I absolutely love the fact that Altman almost fills the final third of his film with a football game. I've always thought that no matter what was happening in the world that I would still be sitting in front of my television watching football on Sunday. The best scene in the film is when the wartime doctors take the young Korean kid, who they've been housing on their base, in to town. There is this overwhelming sense of humiliation and defeat in the scene as the crew realizes that their joke isn't going to work this time. Altman plays the scene with little melodramatic effect and most of the impact of the scene comes much later. In fact, a lot of this film stayed with me for a long time later. A must-see.

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