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Letters from Iwo Jima


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The beginning and ending of this film involves some scholars seeking knowledge about a war with shovels and archeological care.


Back in 1995 I read a long article in the New Yorker about shallow graves around Stalingrad. It seems there were thousands and thousands of soldiers to be covered in 1945 and now the wind, rain, and erosion are forcing some souvenirs into the daylight. Among them were many mail pouches of outgoing letters from German soldiers to their families. There was even some effort to deliver those letters 50 years late, when possible.


After viewing Clint Eastwood's Japanese film my ersatz grandson said, "why didn't the headquarters in Japan send help to the soldiers on Iwo Jima?" I tried to explain to this child of excess that in 1945 there was nothing left in Japan to send except radio waves of a children's chorus singing praises for the warrior protectors of their homes.


My wife's uncle was one of the 21,000 dead soldiers on this little island in 1945.

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The film is in the Japanese language and requires fast reading of subtitles. I've spent a lifetime with foreign films and there was no problem, but I was surprised to see the turnout on a Sunday evening for this. I dislike the use of black and white with touches of color - as in the red blood and red flag of Japan, and red fire of the flame throwers. I guess that's supposed to be 'artistic' but to me it says, 'look, I'm an artist using media to make my points'. Eastwood hates the hot lights of film making and all his directed pictures are dark.


I think it told the story of Japan's defenders very honestly - with one atrocity on their side (shoot the medics with the red cross ID) and one atrocity on USA side, shoot the unarmed prisoner of war because it's dark and scary out here on this island and they are easier to guard if they are dead.


Yes, I think it deserved critical honors.


[ 24.01.2007, 18:46: Message edited by: jerry ]

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Your presumption is almost impeccably correct, however, the Nippon General uses English to interrogate a prisoner, and the U.S. Marines have very, very few lines. This is truly a film for Japanese audiences mainly. There's one flashback scene to where the General is at a friendly dinner party in America before the war and the guests try to determine if he could ever be ordered to harm our country.

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