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2006 Culture Awards

The Year in Movies


Flags of Our Fathers  

8. War and Remembrance
Two films about the Second World War and its bitter ironies. In Flags of Our Fathers, Clint Eastwood’s often clunky but wrenching elegy to “the greatest generation,” the blood-soaked sands of Iwo Jima are the setting for a momentous clash: between Americans and Japanese, but also between heroic myths and grotesque realities. Without discrediting the power of the iconic Joe Rosenthal photograph of five men, their faces obscured, struggling to raise a flag at the top of Mount Suribachi, the film goes on to expose its petty genesis and dispiriting aftermath, along with the sad fate of the Native American soldier (one of the photo’s subjects) who can’t reconcile competing truths. The theme of racism is picked up in the Algerian Rachid Bouchareb’s devastating Days of Glory (the generic retitling of Indigènes), another story of soldiers (in this case, Muslims) who sacrifice everything for a France that sees them as more alien, in some ways, than it does their German enemies. N.B.: Eastwood pulls off a dramatic coup with the reverse-angle Letters From Iwo Jima, the same battle depicted from the Japanese point of view—although the hasty December 20 release seems intended to bolster his Oscar chances for Flags.


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