Thursday, March 5, 2009

Waltz with Bashir

I, along with almost all the rest of the American movie audience, have avoided the recent, undoubtedly earnest, Hollywood efforts about the current war in Iraq or, more specifically, about our servicemen and women returning from there. I’m going to wait until we’ve actually gotten out of that hideous morass before I check to see whether someone can manage to produce an artistic response to it.

It’s been almost 27 years since the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon and that was enough time for Ari Folman to make an amazing work of art about that war.

“Waltz with Bashir” is a strange but wonderful hybrid. It’s an animated, autobiographical documentary filled with dreams and visions. Its mix of black humor and pop music is worthy of some of the more successful parts of “Apocalypse Now”.

The main character is Ari Folman and we see him as the 19-year-old Israeli Defense Force conscript he was then and as the middle-aged man he is now. A friend who served with him in Lebanon tells him about his own recurring dream of the war and Folman realizes that he has no memories of the war and just one dream about it -- a dream of bathing in the Mediterranean at night with two other soldiers, all naked but still armed with their assault rifles. They are looking back at Beirut and watching illumination rounds exploding over high-rise apartments.

The plot of the film is his search for his lost memories. He listens to a lot of fellow veterans’ stories before he recovers his own. I highly recommend this film.

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