Got invited to a preview of Gunner Palace tonight; it’s the documentary about the artillery battalion in Baghdad.
My reaction to the movie while I was watching it was complicated – up, down, sideways, and back again. And when it was over, I was ready to sit back down and see it again, which is a strong vote that you go see it as well.
The couple that made it tried hard to make a nonpolitical film about the war – which will, doubtless, satisfy no one. It frustrated me, as someone who sees the war fundamentally politically (and I don’t just mean in the narrow sense of domestic politics). And then I just started watching it.
I love the poetry of Raymond Carver, but don’t like his stories as much as many people do. It wasn’t until I saw the film that Robert Altman made of them – Short Cuts – that I realized why.
Carver (and Altman) doesn’t like his characters much. So I wind up asking myself, why should I waste my time with them?
The filmmakers of Gunner Palace – Michael Tucker and Petra Epperstein, a couple who live in Berlin – like their characters very much. They respect them and let them speak, teenage privates and beefy colonels. They show them succeed and fail, and they try damn hard in 90 minutes to give you a window into the year the soldiers they film spent in a war.
It’s not a perfect film; I winced a few times at the visual quality and a few times more at edits and quotes that I thought were unfair. But overall, it’s an excellent film, and in a way a perfect film about this war would have been a lie.
They made a few editing choices I wouldn’t have made; they should have ended it with the quote “When this movie is over, you’ll forget me. The only ones who will remember are us.”
Now that I’ve seen the film, I can testify that that’s just flatly not true.
When it comes to your town, go see it. If you oppose the war, if you support the war, if you don’t give a damn about the war, you should see it so that you’ll remember too.