The truth about Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima
In our present degraded culture in which “conservatives” loyally cheer every left-wing cultural manifestation that comes along, so long as it has some element that could be called “conservative” or “patriotic,” a blindness that leftists understand very well and readily exploit, Spencer Warren is a rare cultural critic who has a steady grasp of conservative principle, a devotion to real standards, patriotism to a real country and not merely to an idea, a built-in phoniness detector, and a functioning historical memory; and who therefore is not fooled.
In October, FrontPage Magazine ran an adulatory article by David Forsmark on Clint Eastwood’s Iwo Jima movie, Flags of our Fathers. Forsmark described the picture as “faithfully based on the great book by James Bradley…” Mr. Warren, who had read the book as well as seen the film, found the opposite to be the case. In a devastating article published in December at the website of the American Conservative Union Foundation, he showed how, contrary to Forsmark’s portrayal, the Eastwood movie removes the heroic and sacrificial guts from the book, depersonalizes or eliminates the central figures, and transforms a brief section of the book about a government bond tour (occupying 23 pages out of 534) into fully half the movie, giving extra emphasis to cynical politicians and various hangers-on. Far from being an affirmation of patriotism, as Forsmark and many naïve and easily gulled conservatives imagine, the Eastwood film subverts it. (Also, the New York Times and the Washington Post had praised the movie as patriotic, which should have been a dead giveaway to Forsmark that something was amiss.) Thus, as Mr. Warren shows, the movie is a “conservative liberal” snow job in the manner of Saving Private Ryan, skillfully winning the eager plaudits of conservatives by showing something positive about America in World War II, while in fact deconstructing America and the war and the true devotion and sacrifice of our soldiers, and in the process fooling conservatives into calling anti-Americanism patriotism.
Now the companion movie to Flags of our Fathers has arrived which looks at the battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese point of view, and Mr. Warren comments on it:
I saw Letters from Iwo Jima last night. Perhaps the most morally obtuse, despicable film I’ve ever seen (competing with Easy Rider and a few others of the late sixties, early seventies, when the counter-culture virus was taking hold). It is the nadir of moral equivalence. Its theme: the Japanese who staged the sneak attack at Pearl Harbor, who fought with fanatical savagery, and who murdered millions of Asian civilians and tens of thousands of Allied POWs, were no worse, and no better, than us. (The film ignores events outside of the immediate personal experience of its two Japanese protagonist-”heroes.”)A full review of Letters from Iwo Jima by Mr. Warren will be published soon.
From the little I know of film, I believe it was Eastwood who popularized the anti-hero with the Man with No Name character in those wretched sphaghetti Westerns, which—unsurprisingly—came out in the 60s. He is someone who should have gotten a Ph.D. in psychiatry, so he could study himself at length instead of churning out dreck.LA replies:
I disagree, at least about the films Gintas mentions. The Good, The Bad, the Ugly, directed by Sergio Leone, had a moral structure (if a bit on the existentialist side). Dirty Harry, directed by Don Siegel, had a moral structure; it was a conservative and strongly anti-liberal movie. Eastwood acted in these movies, he did not write, direct, or produce them.David H. writes:
When I first read about a new Iwo Jima film, I was momentarily overjoyed, but the reality of Hollywood quickly extinguished any hope that I had for a realistic, honest depiction of one of the most fierce (and important) battles in American history. If one feels any enthusiasm for a modern Hollywood treatment of history, one is about to suffer terrible disappointment and insult—unless one is a leftist cretin to begin with.Robert R. writes:
I’m glad to read your comments about movies that are basically Liberal, being praised by Conservatives. When I first saw “Patton” starring George C. Scott back in, what?, 1972 or so. I was shocked to see it was basically an anti-war movie which also painted Patton as a complete nut. Imagine my surprise when a few years later I realized it had become a much-praised movie among Conservatives.LA replies:
Gosh, I only saw “Patton” for the first time a few years ago and I don’t remember the things about it that you point out. Could you pinpoint how it was anti-war?David B. writes:
By coincidence, about a half hour before I read your thread on “Letters From Iwo Jima,” my brother called me, asking if I had seen it and would recommend it. He had apparently seen the gushing TV previews. I told him that although I hadn’t seen it, I had seen reviews and would NOT advise him to see it. I told my brother that it doesn’t give an accurate picture of the Japanese, while “Flags of Our Fathers” failed to give the US Marines their due. By the way, two of my uncles took part in the battle for Iwo Jima.LA replies:
Any person with even mildly conservative convictions who believes gushing mainstream movie reviews nowadays is dangerously naive. The movie review industry routine praises to the skies left-wing and nihilistic movies while also remaining silent about their objectionable contents. The purpose is to draw people in unawares and propagandize them. One recent example that I think I’ve told about is “The History Boys.” After seeing the movie, I checked out several reviews to see if they gave any hint of the sheer prominence of homosexuality in this film (all of which is presented approvingly), including the extremely raw culminating scene in which a student seduces a teacher into an assignation. Most reviews gave no idea that the movie was like this. They made it sound as though it was just about the academic life.Paul Henri writes:
Eastwood has produced an artistic atrocity. He equates the Japanese with moral human beings. The Japanese followed an evil code: non-Japanese were subhuman. My Daddy does not engage in these discussions because he is of the precomputer era. So I must inform that he earned a Purple Heart at Iwo Jima and has told me of the unspeakable Japanese atrocities on Iwo Jima and elsewhere that he and his fellow Marines endured. As a forward ship-to-shore fire controller, he was at high risk. He, as so many WWII veterans, is so humble that I had to write his application for a hearing disability, which was granted by the VA.Gintas writes:
You said, “There has never been the culture that is evil in the specific way that our modern liberal society is evil. It is a culture run by and for the benefit of traitors and perverts, whom the culture presents as mainstream.”Alan Levine writes:
I did not see either Eastwood movie nor did I read the book. However, I did look at James Bradley’s other book, “Flyboys,” and was not impressed. It is by no means free of the problems Spencer Warren and others allude to. For one thing, Bradley several times makes guilt-ridden allusions to the Mexican War and has the people of 1944-1945 brooding about this (!) He also seemed to be entirely unaware that “flyboy,” which sounds frivolous enough by itself, was a derogatory term used by the ground forces and the surface Navy for aviators——-not a term of respect.Robert R. writes:
[The movie shows] Patton as a total whack-job and a buffoon. The much-lauded opening speech by Patton is clearly trying to show him in a negative light, but the subtlety of the message seems to have been wasted on many conservatives. But it’s been too long for me to remember any details. I remember the opening scene in which animals are shown picking at the bodies of American soldiers and the overall cheesy war scenes. In trying to refresh my memory I found a site that claims that it was indeed meant to carry an anti-war message.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 01, 2007 01:15 PM | Send