Waltz With Bashir

You don’t see a lot of animated documentaries these days and truth be told, Waltz With Bashir’s style reminded me a lot of Ralph Bakshi. Computerized rotoscoping, perhaps?

This is an odd, almost feckless movie, about a man who was involved in the Lebanon War of 1982 and the massacres at Sabra and Shatila. But he doesn’t remember it at all. He just has this dream of being chased by 26 angry dogs. He goes to find other people who were there, and learn their stories–none of them remember being at the massacre either.

The opening scenes feature two different instances of soldiers shooting (a lot, for a long period) with no idea what they’re shooting at. There seems to be no commander anywhere. We saw this in Apocalypse Now, of course, but in that case, we were deep in enemy territory. In this case, it’s like they walked down the street. But I guess these wars do take place in small spaces.

I didn’t think the IDF was that disorganized. But, as I said, this is supposed to be semi-autobiographical.

It’s sort of indicative of the random stories being told. From what I can tell, the Israelis invaded Lebanon allied with the Christian Phalangists after the assassination of Lebanese President-Elect Bashir Gemayel. The massacre occurred as Israeli forces invaded and the Phalangists used them as cover to go into certain areas and slaughter civilians.

In stereotypical Jewish fashion, the Israelis–who from the looks of things couldn’t have stopped this if they tried–feel really, really guilty about this. I mean, I’m guessing we won’t see any parallel film come out of Palestine. (Though in fairness to the Palestinians, their cameras are all tied up staging inflammatory news stories.) And it’s pretty clear from the story that the terrorists they were trying to kill loved to hang out with the civilians. (I have to investigate the historical precedent for the common Israeli tactic of “OK, we’re going to attack you, so if you’re not the enemy, you’ll want to be running away now.” I wonder if any other nation has done that routinely?)

But war is heck and leads to a lot of morally and ethically ambiguous situations that can be traumatic and haunt you for decades after–kind of the same theme as Gran Torino, actually, though Torino turns that on its head–and this movie shows us the various hecks that the various Israeli soldiers endure.

It’s pretty effective, I suppose. The Boy was fascinated and unsure, but he seems to be trending more favorable toward as time goes on.

I didn’t check the parental stuff beforehand, so I was a bit surprised when there was a scene of an Israeli commander issuing orders while watching hard-core porn. You probably want to keep that in mind before showing it to the kids. I mean, if the graphic violence wasn’t sufficient. There are also some surreal nude scenes.

It wasn’t boring. It’s probably worth re-watching, even. But I think I was put off a bit by the introspectiveness of it.

This is the only one of the foreign language films up for the Oscar I’ve seen this year. I might also go see Class–but damned if it doesn’t sound like that movie that gets made every 2-3 years here, about the teacher in the inner city? I think the last one of those I saw had Edward James Olmos in it.

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