The weekend began with several war movies screened by TCM. The powerful Paths of Glory was on, and it is the best war film ever made. It is in reality an anti-military film as was Breaker Morant, which was also shown on the same day and is also a film about soldiers betrayed by their own side. The Sand Pebbles is on tonight. Films depicting soldiers and sailors betrayed by their government is a curious way of honoring our fallen but I suppose films of this type are a large fraction of all the pictures made about war since The Fifties'. I hope they show the Thin Red Line, as it is perhaps the second best film about war ever made. It garnered poor reviews, but I find it mesmerizing and very moving.
The liberal mind set is only comfortable with images of American fighting men as victims or losers. The War, Ken Burn's attempt to do with The Second World War what he did with the Civil War, fails in several ways. The series is so obsessed with the sins of our society that one is left wondering why people bothered to fight at all. His recollectors views don't comport very well with those I've heard from veterans I know. The war was a horror for those who saw combat but I never detected the equivocation about American Society that seeps through the attitudes of Burn's subjects. Segregation, the internment of Japanese Americans and all the other liberal preoccupations pay a huge role in Burn's narrative. This reflexive guilt poisons everything Burns has done since the Civil War and it cripples his work.
Winston Marsallis's score is merely creepy when it needed the range to evoke dread and a lot more. There was some very interesting footage but some of it actually clashed with the narration, as when we are told that the Marines on Guadalcanal landed with "Old bolt action rifles," only to see footage of a Marine with a state of the art semi-automatic carbine. Burns researchers didn't seem to know that all the armies of the world fielded bolt action rifles at that time. Burns prided himself at the time of the documentaries release for not getting bogged down in the hardware of the war. He seems to have carried this too far in this and other cases. The old lefty hatred of MacArthur is also overdone. MacArthur was caught napping at the commencement of the war. But his conduct of the rest of the war in the Pacific was masterful. Burns implies that resistance to the Japanese in the Philippines was mismanaged. If so, MacArthur managed things a lot better than the British did in neighboring Malaya. No one did well against the Japanese in the early stages of the war.
Burns doubts about his own society blinds him to the positive effects of the war. Americans of the war generation I know developed a "Can do" attitude and a sense of achievement that never left them. Americans were genuinely awed by the industrial/organizational capacity of their nation. I never met a veteran who didn't take it as a matter of fact that we saved the world from injustices far worse than any to be found at home. No people are perfect, but I believe the spirit of the war generation is far superior to the hyper-self critical, self obsessed mentality of today.