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January 31, 2007

None but the Brave


Frank Sinatra - 1965
Warner Brothers 35mm Film

Nathan Gardels in The Huffington Post: The era of globalization finally has its first filmmaker -- Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. His Oscar-nominated film, "Babel," is the first of a new genre in which the Hollywood template is used, in Gonzalez Inarritu's words, to "show the point of view of others, of those on the other side."

Based on the brief biography, Gardels is a pretty bright guy. He probably is way to busy to see a lot of films. I do wish he bothered to at least talk to a couple of film scholars before babbling about Babel. There may be other films I either don't know about or forgot about, but there is at least one film I saw that pointed the way for two current Oscar nominees.

Back when Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu was barely out of diapers, and Clint Eastwood was the star of the TV series Rawhide, Frank Sinatra made None but the Brave. After bullying the likes of Lewis Milestone, Robert Aldrich and John Sturges, Sinatra stepped into the director's chair officially for this one time. What made the film unique was that it this was a World War II film alternating between the American and Japanese soldiers. Nothing was said that wasn't expressed in films like All Quiet on the Western Front and almost every film that followed. Based on what little I knew about film at the time, I was excited to see a film that looked at war from the point of view of both "our side" and "the enemy", overlooking the cliches of cast and characters one expected from a Warner Brothers production, albeit a co-production with Toho. One might further argue that Sinatra's film was essentially redone, reduced to a cast of two in John Boorman's Hell in the Pacific and as the multi-million dollar extravaganza Tora! Tora! Tora!. None but the Brave is currently available as a French DVD, and is on VHS in the U.S.

Babel wasn't created in a vacuum. If Gonzalez Inarritu hadn't made it, someone else would have made a similar film. For all I know, someone may have already made that film. Someone well-versed in film history could rattle off the dozen or so films and filmmakers which paved the way for Babel as neither its structure nor its Third World point of view are new. It is for those reasons that Gonzalez Inarritu and Gardels have made statements that I question. In its own way, None but the Brave looked at how people are divided by language and culture, using the Hollywood template of the war film.

Speaking of Third World points of view, for those not humor-impaired, let me recommend this film which illustrates what Thais really think of Americans and the French.

Posted by peter at January 31, 2007 02:34 AM


I am afraid to look at your last link, LOL. I agree with you though, I am constantly bumping up against critical assessments that don't seem to be aware of a film's forebears. It is enough to make an amateur film historian very, very grumpy.

I haven't seen this one but I have seen Tora! Tora! Tora!, whose existence I had to point out over at another blog where people were getting all indignant about Letters from Iwo Jima. Sigh.

Posted by: Campaspe at February 5, 2007 08:03 PM