Some men (and women) whom the gods would destroy, they first raise high for all to see. These men (and women) have been so successful, have amassed such wealth, and have acquired so many playthings — the grand houses on Lily Pond Lane, Chateaux en Provence, estates in Scotland surrounded by rushing streams rich with trout, or vast glass and steel condos looking out over Central Park, that they yearn for things that wealth cannot buy. These are men (and women) like George Soros, Barbra Streisand, Steven Spielberg. Besotted with their wealth they forget that they are ordinary men (and women) with small gifts for entertaining or trading in markets. The gods first enchant them with dreams of changing the world and then cast them into the outer space of narcissistic illusion, where they are doomed to watch their own inner movies forever.
One fears that Clint Eastwood is heading in that direction. He has become so successful as an actor, director, and producer of movies that he may have forgotten that the gift he was given was to be used simply to entertain us, like a juggler, or a trapeze artist who makes us breathless with fear and then takes a smiling, confident bow.
Now he wants to teach us something important, to tell us what is right and what is wrong about the world. In his new movie, Flags of Our Fathers, based on the best seller by James Bradley published in 2000, he wants to teach us how we should feel about the tragedy of war and about heroism, together with a little bit about our soulless, lying, cynical government.
You will find none of these pretensions in James Bradley’s book. He wrote it, he tells us, to figure out why his father, John Bradley, one of the anonymous men in the iconic photograph depicting the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima, refused to talk about his experiences in the war. The book is the product of James Bradley’s search to understand his father, and in the process of discovery he tells us about the other five Marines in the famous photo and a bit about what happened after they became famous.
Eastwood’s movie, on the other hand, is a bloated docudrama, which seems to take as long as the battle — 36 days — and seems to use about the same number of people in its cast and crew — 70,000.
That is because, in trying to be faithful to James Bradley’s book as well as his own views of war, the movie tries to be about a heck of a lot of things:
There’s the war-is-hell theme.
There’s the in-war-everyone-is-a-hero theme.
There’s the son’s-search-for-the-real-father theme.
There’s the making-of-the-iconic-photo theme.
There’s the confusion-about-the-identity-of-the-sixth-man theme.
There’s the soulless-cynicism-and-hypocrisy-of-the-lying-government theme.
There’s the racism-against-Native-Americans theme.
There’s the how-the-war-and-government-destroy-little-people’s-lives theme.
A pretty heavy load of themes for one movie to carry.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?