“America wants to show that the revolutionary struggle can only fail.”
Various French directors voice their strong anti-Vietnam War sentiments in this compiled documentary about America’s involvement in the country’s civil war.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Alain Resnais Films
- Episodic Films
- French Films
- Godard Films
- Vietnam War
French director-essayist “Chris Marker” spearheaded this collective effort (by himself, Joris Ivens, William Klein, Claude Lelouch, Agnès Varda, Jean-Luc Godard and Alain Resnais) to voice opposition to America’s involvement in Vietnam — and while some segments inevitably fare better than others, it remains surprisingly engaging and revelatory. Possibly the most emotional sequence shows the young widow of self-immolating Quaker protestor Norman Morrison calmly caring for her kids while visiting friends in Vietnam; (I honestly had no idea how many people have chosen this as a form of protest over the years.) On the flip side, Jean-Luc Godard’s segment is the most annoying; as DVD Savant writes, it features “a rambling verbal discourse with dull shots of himself pretending to operate a large film camera” as he “states that the best thing he can do is to lend his name to this movie” (!) since Hanoi refused to give him a travel visa. Ah, ego.
Not unexpectedly, the film was far from neutrally received in America. As DVD Savant notes in his review:
“When it was new Far from Vietnam mainly saw screenings at festivals and on college campuses, probably in so-so 16mm prints. Commercial bookings for anti-establishment pictures were difficult, due to vandalism and smoke bomb attacks by right-wing extremists. When they could, U.S. customs officials prohibited the import of ‘foreign propaganda’. The situation wasn’t all that different in France, where a theater showing Far from Vietnam was heavily damaged and its manager beaten by a mob of thugs.”
Even for viewers who have seen other documentaries or movies about the war, Far From Vietnam is well worth a look as an invaluable historical document.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Many powerful, memorable moments and sequences
Yes, once, for its historical significance.