Friday, June 12, 2015

MASH (1970)

New surgeons at a Korean war MASH unit three miles from the front subvert authority, cause chaos, and manipulate the commanding officer, while performing in extremely hostile conditions. Then they play football.

MASH is a gritty, morally ambiguous, and episodic film that captured the attention of the anti-war counterculture of 1970. Faithful to the source material, it depicted war entirely different from the heroic fantasy. When the studio complained that the soldiers were dirty, director Robert Altman, a veteran of WWII, said soldiers in war were dirty. Execs then told the filmmakers of Patton, also in production at that time, to dirty up their soldiers.

As a kid we watched M*A*S*H regularly. One new year's eve my sister and I stayed up late while my parents were out (people did that back then!) and we watched the movie on network TV (they bleeped out "god" in "god damn"). I could not reconcile this film with the show, and it takes a careful adult eye to see the transition. Each character was groomed for 70's TV audiences, and the protagonists became for family friendly (Hawkeye became unmarried). Tom Skerritt as the slightly racist southerner was cut altogether. Kept was the idea that enemy wounded also deserved care, as well as a general mistreatment of women.

There is definitely an Altman style and few films represent it better than this. The dialog is layered as in real life, and the story is non-linear (both "fixed" for TV). I can't say that I am in love with his style, but I do have respect. And it was fun to see this old friend again with my son. He has been humming the theme ever since. AMRU 4.
"I'd dearly love to see that angry!"

No comments:

Post a Comment