Saturday, May 22, 2010

JFK (1991)

“ A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against its Government.”

No, it’s neither just routine political epic about great US president nor about knowing who killed Kennedy. It’s a film about one man’s obsessive struggle to know the truth and the whole truth. And that’s what it makes really an engrossing and intriguing experience to know the insider story behind the plot of Kennedy’s assassination. Director Oliver Stone followed the book written by whistleblower Jim Garrison and presented a film which is perhaps more controversial or chaotic than breaking news or cover stories of the real sad event. Like Garrison, Stone probed deeper into the plain truth raising many pertinent questions about the authenticity of Federal Government and Warren commission’s report. At the end of the film we absolutely convinced that it’s not only Oswald who shoot Kennedy.

Though many critics and historians claimed that Stone has taken much liberty with facts in screenplay but I do feel that its not about facts but its emotional repercussions of a time where a man named Jim Garrison went against the system, scrutinized the conventional available truth with his own counter analysis. And while watching it, we definitely feel the heat of some boiling conspiracy ran by a syndicate that hates Kennedy so terribly. It ranges from FBI, CIA to Mafias and Russian Communists. The film garnered much controversy due to this at the time of release.

Technically flawless as Stone’s many films, JFK is quite complex and unconventional in many fronts especially in editing & cinematography; the film won two Oscars in both out of 8 major nominations. It’s like visual assault or bombardment of facts, information and links carrying logical conclusions sprouting like popcorn. Cinematographer Robert Richardson showed extensive camera work in all forms- 35 mm to 8 mm, montage, still photography, color and B&W frames.

I do wonder why Stone didn’t get this worthy award as Best Director! May be because Academy already given him two trophies too earlier for ‘Platoon’ and ‘Born on the 4th of July’ or may be because ‘The Silence of Lambs’ carried more critical favor. However it was Stone almost as auteur maintained layered narration with detailing of structure within structure carrying multiple points of views of the investigation and out of all that making a gripping film despite its epical length of almost three hours.

The film has brilliant performances by strong ensemble cast, whether it’s Kevin Costner in his great intensive role as whistleblower Attorney Jim Garrison or quite unidentifiable Tommy Lee Jones as Clay Shaw or Gary Oldman as prime suspect Lee Oswald. The film also has respective company of supporting actors like Joe Pesci (another unrecognizable face under heavy makeup…just pay attention to trademark dialogue delivery to catch him), Kevin Bacon, Jack Lemmon & Sissy Spacek to name a few and everyone added the touch of intensity in their long or short reel time. But Costner gave another powerful performance absolutely deserving Oscar which he didn’t get. Watch his intensity throughout the film and then in that climactic courtroom scene where he showed Zapruder film and speculated the real truth. “But someday, somewhere, someone may find out the damn truth.” A great courtroom speech indeed!
Masterpiece of Oliver Stone.



Vikram Samal said...

Well as I said I too feel that JFK is Stone's best work as a film and I told that I would have given it 10/10 but as a fact Stone tampered with the historical accuracy at points which made the film most compelling..I would give few examples as derived from IMDB:

1.Some of the characters in JFK are fictional, including Willie O'Keefe, played by Kevin Bacon and X, played by Donald Sutherland. In addition, many scenes, including several flashbacks, were invented by Oliver Stone for creative reasons.

See the most important witnesses and characters who drive Garrison towards the truth are fabricated by Stone..Had it not been for them the movie would have lost credibility as a historical drama but rather ended up being a political thriller..

2.Notoriously, Stone invented or exaggerated many of the pieces of evidence shown in the film. The most famous of these is, perhaps, the gunfire from the grassy knoll. In one famous image, that is dubbed "badge man", a figure is purportedly visible behind the fence on the grassy knoll with a white blob near his one shoulder. Conspiracy theorists have suggested that this blob is smoke from a gun being fired. Stone included this idea in the film. However, when the time came to film the scene he was unable to find a period rifle which would produce smoke that was visible on camera and had to resort to having a crew member blow smoke from a bellows.

THis is just unforgivable, isnt it??

3.That being said, Oliver Stone has stated that the film is fictional, and is intended as a "counter-myth" to the Warren Report. He has also stated that the film is not meant to be taken literally, but instead is a distillation of all the myths, fantasies, and conspiracy theories that have permeated our popular culture since Kennedy's assassination.

Then why do you base on a true president if the tale is fictional?? You could have named the president anything else but JFK..It was named JFK to garner eyeballs but the saga was made of fiction..

All said and done:

the film is based upon two books, "On the Trail of the Assassins" by Jim Garrison, and "Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy" by Jim Marrs. Although there are differences between the books and the movie, the film presents the ideas laid forth in the book with a fair amount of accuracy.

So I respected Stone's JFK as a fiction which was sold in the garb of truth but still made a highly compelling piece of drama and gave it an 8/10..I was harsh on Stone for his poor representation of history, which you and I will never know with pure accuracy, but respected his film as a medium of entertainment..

Vikram said...

Great Great film. One of my All time Top 10.