Friday, January 2, 2009

Movies: Waltz With Bashir

With the aesthetic fluency of Grand Theft Auto, the moral nuance of a kindergarten classroom, and the psychological profundity of the Batman comics, this film offers nothing compelling for an audience that’s graduated from high school, though it is being marketed as a political documentary for educated adults. The plot (whether or not a documentary should have plot is a separate issue; this film has one, though it’s rather weak) centers around the filmmaker’s search for an accurate description of his participation in the Beirut massacre when he served in the Israeli army more than twenty years ago. He travels the globe, interviewing old comrades about their memories, hoping someone will remember what role he played. Ultimately, his memory becomes a composite of all the other memories he hears. At the end of the film, to render this guilt-fueled drivel relevant, we are shown actual footage of the scene of the massacre. Theoretically, after 90 minutes of animation, the sight of actual corpses, stacked and bloodied, and the anguished faces of ululating women are to move us. In fact, this low-resolution video of collateral damage, so inferior to depictions of violence we see at the movies every day, doesn’t even permeate our boredom, much less access some kind of political empathy or moral outrage. This is not because we are desensitized; this is because Waltz With Bashir is a terribly-made film.

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