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Hearts and Minds (The Criterion Collection)
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A courageous and startling film, Peter Davis' landmark documentary Hearts and Minds unflinchingly confronts the United States' involvement in Vietnam. Using a wealth of sources-from interviews to newsreels to documentary footage of the conflict at home and abroad-Davis constructs a powerfully affecting portrait of the disastrous effects of war. Explosive, persuasive, and shocking, Hearts and Minds is an overwhelming emotional experience and the controversial winner of the 1974 Academy Award® for Best Documentary.
- New Digital Transfer Supervised By the Director and Cinematographer
- Accompanying Booklet Containing Multiple Printed Essays On The Film
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Top Customer Reviews
Over the past 40 years, on one or two of the ten occasions I watched it alone. Other times, there was a "purpose." Some Canadian friends had a son who wanted to join their Special Forces, and sought me out in an effort to dissuade him. We watched the movie together. It didn't dissuade him, and some 15 years on, he delights in the "action life." An American Indian friend of my son wanted to join the Marines; the movie did seem to have an impact, and he never joined. The most telling viewing was with six of my coevals, all friends, all skiers, none of whom had been in the war. Which one movie...?, they asked. As an answer, one year, for the "apres-ski," we watched it. NONE watched the whole movie... it wasn't that they were upset at the occasional scenes of bodily harm, rather, they just couldn't understand the point. Like, for example, what did that high school football game in Niles, Ohio have to do with the war? A simple "EVERYTHING" from me was inadequate, and certainly not persuasive.
There is an interview of a couple in Concord, Massachusetts who had obviously lost their son in the war. The father is pontificating about the necessity for such "sacrifices" in order to maintain our glorious government. The mother is in the background, trying to be supportive, but the camera catches her hands on the model airplane their son had built, and the middle-distance look in her eyes that fully expressed her doubts about what her husband was saying.
Wars bring out our racist characteristics. It is easier to kill someone if they are not quite human, not of the in-group. On my first viewing, I had no idea where Placitas, New Mexico was. And now I can do a day-hike there. An American Indian is filmed on a rock outcrop in Placitas, talking about the racial slurs he was subjected to in Marine boot camp, but then he had the insight to say how easily he started using racial slurs to describe the Vietnamese. Lt. Coker, a returning POW, is asked by a child in a school to describe Vietnam. He says that it was a lovely country, except for the people who were backward and "messed everything up." General Westmoreland, in civilian attire, a seersucker sport coast, is filmed standing under a weeping willow tree at his home in South Carolina. He says: the "oriental" doesn't place the same high value on life as we do...and Davis follows this scene with one of a Vietnamese woman trying to throw herself into the grave, to join her soldier son, who is being buried.
Davis is a master of juxtaposition. He "pairs" Lt. Coker with (former) Captain Randy Floyd. Both were pilots, both with about 100 combat missions. One "saw," the other was oblivious. Both spoke of the pride they took in their flying skills. One would eventually understand what his skills did, the other was willful in not wanting to know, as Coker said: "It was all just professionalism." Davis juxtaposes the soundtrack from the patriotic World War I song "The Yanks are comin'" with all the implications that the French and British actually wanted our help, with American soldiers destroying a South Vietnamese village, destroying their rice, which were always considered "caches for the VC."
There is much footage of the senior political leadership, Vietnamese and American, and their views on why America got into the war, and stayed. Rumsfeld must have seen the film. He banned the taking of pictures of wounded American soldiers, or even their coffins during the 2003 Iraq War. It is a "downside" to the "glorious enterprise." Both the dead and the wounded are in this documentary. There are no "Susie Wongs" in this film, nor Graham Greene's "Phoung." The prostitution is a sordid, dirty business, and I wonder to this day how Davis obtained that scene, that truly captured it. Under "other duties as assigned" I had to deal with the principle consequence of such fleeting liaisons; the massive misuse of antibiotics in Vietnam reverberates today... as we await the first "bug" that will be resistant to any treatment by antibiotics.
A picture perfect ending. After several vignettes that underscore the utter indifference of many on the home front to the war, Davis finishes with a patriotic parade in NYC, with banners proclaiming "Victory in Vietnam." On the sideline are former American soldiers who had been in the war, protesting. They are called "commies," told to "go back to Cuba." Finally, there is a former soldier wearing an Army jacket with the patch of the 173rd Airborne brigade. He yells at the camera: What is this? I was the one in the war... not these people.
Don't know if I could see it another 10 times; the emotional drain would be too much. But for the first 10 times, an unquestionable 6-stars, plus.
Amazon: you have a reputation for quality products. Please make sure this issue is fixed immediately on this important historical documentary.
The unbiased attempt of the documentary comes from many opinions given by men who were there. Some of them so pro-war they make John Wayne look like Gandhi, some who started out Gung-Ho but due to what they did and saw now reflect very ruefully about their time in country.
In the middle of all the political posturing and hateful rhetoric of the time were the Vietnamese people. Focus of the documentary changes via editing from the words of "Sgt Rock"'s way to win to the villages destroyed by bomb after bomb from American planes. Peasants show us where their homes used to be, where their mothers, sons, daughters died in the raids. All the time these people talk to us they retain that Asian grace and resolve. Some of the peasants interviewed look so void of hope and so full of despair one has to wonder was it worth it to them? North Vietnamese slaughter or American slaughter?
I feel the documentary did a good job of putting a very human face on war. Pilots flying around dropping bombs never see the victims and, carpet bombing villages is not precise but, the term "Acceptable loss" has a way of sweeping friendly casualties away neatly. It was unfortunate to me that America had chosen to support one of the most corrupt governments to justify it's anti-communist, cold war doctrine.
My sentiment going into the documentary was already swayed towards an anti-war stance. Not because I'm a peace loving hippie but more that wars are usually started by a few people at the top who don't like each other but they aren't always the ones getting slaughtered. Recently we see more and more of this as our nation's youth are sent thousands of miles away by people who have never suffered a day in their lives. Coffins draped in flags coming home to parents are no reward for the loss of a child due to politics.
It's a long documentary but if you sit quiet and listen you will come away feeling differently and it will stay with you for a while. America didn't understand Vietnam or its people. It had no idea what it was getting itself into. The documentary attempts to point all this out and, the end of the doc is very telling of this as we watch a parade being heckled by Vietnam Vets both crippled and healthy demanding jobs not parades whilst the jeers and cat calls of the marchers in the parade and the crowd rain down on them. We even turned against our own.