Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Sands of Iwo Jima

by jaydro

Whatever your opinion on Flags of Our Fathers, I think you will agree that the post-Iwo Jima story of the surviving flag-raisers is interesting. I found myself looking for more information on them, particularly Ira Hayes. I was surprised to find that they appeared in the John Wayne film Sands of Iwo Jima, which might have made for an interesting scene in Flags (and for all I know was shot and not used).

My curiosity piqued, I watched Sands (actually I cheated and first watched the last fifteen minutes, but then went back and watched the whole thing), and it's getting harder to watch this sort of film, with its combat death scenes that play more like Chinese opera. I'm not sure if I saw this film on "Dialing for Dollars" as a kid, but I did not remember the ending, so perhaps I did not, though I have seen a lot like it over the years. If you're a John Wayne fan you'll probably like it.

There's a clumsy reenactment of the flag-raising, with the participants freezing at the appropriate moment so as to provide an easy cutaway to reaction shot closeups, and I fault the editor for not cutting away at just the right moment so as to hide the freeze. Then it was soon over and I was asking, was that it? You couldn't even tell those were the real guys or anything, so why even put them in the credits? I had to go to the IMDB trivia page for the film to discover that they do appear in one shot with Wayne, and when I went back I found myself watching that shot over and over. In just that brief appearance the real surviving flag-raisers seem to perfectly embody their characters as portrayed in Flags. From left to right there's:
  • Gagnon seemingly barely able to suppress a big grin, as if he's thinking "Wow, I'm in a John Wayne movie!"
  • Bradley appearing appropriately respectful
  • Hayes looking down at the ground as if he wishes he were somewhere else
There's a publicity still of them with Wayne, but it doesn't capture the same moment as in the film, which I've submitted here through a crude screen capture technique.

Sands was shown Monday on Turner Classic Movies, and last night they aired a restored version of the Peter Bogdanovich documentary Directed by John Ford. I plan to watch it, but having seen a promo for it with Martin Scorsese waxing enthusiastic over Ford's The Wings of Eagles, I found myself also recording that and They Were Expendable to boot. So looks like I'm going to go through a John Wayne phase....

9 Comments:

Blogger Nick said...

I'm still conflicted over whether to see Flags or not. I hate patriotic movies, American or otherwise. Makes my stomach churn.

But your review of it gave it an interesting point of view. But there are more than a few films out there I haven't seen yet (Borat, After the Wedding). And on friday The Lives of Others is getting released.

So maybe it's more of a case of the opportunity presenting itself or not. Or just waiting for the DVD.

11/08/2006 03:52:00 PM  
Blogger jaydro said...

I'll let you skip Flags for now, Nick, only if you promise to see Letters from Iwo Jima (or Red Sun, Black Sand or whatever title it may have in your country) when it comes out.

11/08/2006 04:00:00 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Now that I can promise.

11/08/2006 04:03:00 PM  
Blogger Count Olaf said...

but......won't that be patriotic from a Japanese standpoint?sure, they lose, but they are trying hold on to their land, dignity, honor, etc..for country. Isn't that patriotic?

11/08/2006 05:24:00 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

No, no one is patriotic unless they're an American. Otherwise they're nationalistic. And notice that Nick has never once said that he has a problem with nationalism.

11/08/2006 06:22:00 PM  
Blogger jaydro said...

Or maybe that's okay because the movie was made by Americans, not Japanese? And the Japanese lose in the end? (Note: one of my favorite war movies is A Bridge Too Far, in which the "good" guys are smug and overconfident and lose the battle that's supposed to end the war.)

Of course, I didn't think Flags was patriotic, or at least not the kind of rah-rah patriotism that was shown in the marketing of it (saw a couple of the TV spots last night in a month-old recording). It was more this kind of patriotism: we're damn lucky to have ordinary people who are willing to go do this shit that will either get them killed or fuck them up for life, because we sure don't treat them right when they come home--and if you don't believe that, here is an example of three guys who were the very icons of heroism in World War II. I've seen a lot of movies that deal with the "damn lucky" and "killed" part of that, and I've seen a few movies that deal with the "fuck them up for life" and "don't treat them right" part, but the two don't usually get as combined as they were in Flags. This can then provoke two reactions: gee, we should really think about this before we get in some other war, and, hey, give Jessica Lynch a break!

11/08/2006 11:52:00 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

(Count Olaf)but......won't that be patriotic from a Japanese standpoint?sure, they lose, but they are trying hold on to their land, dignity, honor, etc..for country. Isn't that patriotic?

Hey, when did I say I seeing Letters was because that one didn't have anything to do with patriotism?

Okay, first, I didn't say I'd necessarily find watching Japanese patriotic sentiment more pleasant. Second, I meant seeing both of them because, third, I think it's probably better seeing them close together and in that way hopefully complement each other, instead of being two strictly antagonistic sides of the same story (even if, I know, that is what the conflict itself was). And, fourth, winning or losing the battle has nothing to do with patriotic films, as anyone who's seen We Were Soldiers knows.

And, fifth, what jaydro said.

(jaydro)because the movie was made by Americans, not Japanese

An American making a film patriotic from the Japanese standpoint? I seriously doubt that could happen.

What I hope, with both, is that I see the kind of film jaydro says he's seen, a more critical view of patriotism, from both sides.

The problem I have with seeing Flags is that it looks (from the trailers) like it didn't do that. But I will see both, when they're out.

(Brian)And notice that Nick has never once said that he has a problem with nationalism.

Yeah, that is funny.

On that note, I would like to declare that I am against bestiality. It is wrong.

11/09/2006 05:58:00 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

On that note, I would like to declare that I am against bestiality. It is wrong.

It's about time you said so. I was starting to wonder...

11/09/2006 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger jaydro said...

I've gotten through half of that Directed by John Ford documentary, and good God but Bogdanovich is the greatest director of talking-head interviews I've ever seen. He interviews everyone outside, and in the old interviews he lets the subjects (John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart, John Ford, etc.) stand, sit down, walk around, act things out, etc. It's a real breath of fresh, er, I suppose refreshened air.

11/10/2006 02:51:00 AM  

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