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Interviews with My Lai Veterans
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by The Ultimate Dancing Machine

"Worth watching if you can find it"
4 stars

Though best known for his ambitious literary adaptations (ULYSSES, TROPIC OF CANCER), director Joseph Strick won his Oscar for this little-known documentary short about the then-topical 1968 My Lai massacre committed by U.S. troops. It is the sort of film that's valuable more for its subject matter than its execution--but the value is undeniable.

Five My Lai veterans appear serially on camera, questioned by an offscreen interviewer (Richard Hammer). The film's agit-prop designs are immediately apparent; Mr. Hammer's queries have a definite tilt to them--a leftward tilt, you might say. (When one of the vets confesses that many of his fellow soldiers seemed to be having fun killing the villagers, Hammer asks if any of them did not appear to enjoy the slaughter. This is not the sort of question you ask if you reasonably expect to hear "yes" in response.) But even despite the loaded questions, the film, in a scant 22 minutes, successfully paints a not-so-pretty picture of the carnage and chaos of war: the subjects candidly reveal how they learned--too well--not to question orders, even commands like "shoot everybody."

Technically, INTERVIEWS is well edited but generally nothing special, despite the presence behind the camera of famed cinematographer Haskell Wexler; the DVD print betrays minor but noticable signs of wear. At present, the film is available only as a bonus feature on the DVD edition of THE SAVAGE EYE (co-directed by Strick).

It is definitely a film of its time, but even today it has points of interest.

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originally posted: 03/13/03 12:12:42
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5/01/03 billy fuller need work 1 stars
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  25-Feb-1971 (NR)



Directed by
  Joseph Strick

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