Jan 18, 2008

A Walk in the Sun

After viewing A Walk in the Sun(directed by Lewis Milestone) I felt as if I hadn’t seen anything new. It just seemed like the shell of a movie directed by Steven Spielberg known as Saving Private Ryan. Samuel Fuller’s analysis of A Walk in the Sun is dead on its remarks. Samuel Fuller was a filmmaker that liked to expose the dark nature and weakness of our society(I.e. Pickup on South Street, Naked Kiss). Like his films, Fuller’s analysis of A Walk in the Sun is brutally honest and has a complete disregard for sentiment. The generic characters in A Walk in the Sun fell into the combat film convention of representing the American melting pot(or partially). The film acknowledged the Italian American as part of the melting pot while presenting shame to real Italians. The two Italian soldiers seen in A Walk in the Sun are recognized as cowardly opportunists who sold their soul to the devil(Germany), but lack the mental capacity to understand this. I don’t think the scene was trying to represent any type of symbolic redemption. It was more of, you got what you asked for.

Fuller’s criticism of “melodramatic bickering” was also dead on. This convention of the combat film is completely pointless and one of its biggest flaws. Steven Spielberg also utilized this convention in Saving Private Ryan. I have always felt these scenes were highly contrived and left little for people to analyze for themselves. “Melodramatic bickering” has as little value to the war film as it would a horror film. Fuller’s letter fully incriminates Lewis Milestone as a propagandist and a man that has no understanding of war. Fuller points out that a colonel’s screen credit for technical authenticity is worthless. He felt that a Colonel’s technical advice on what happens to a platoon was absurd. It is obvious that Milestone had no interest in creating a realistic film, but an already cliché propaganda war combat flick. It amazes me that directors like Spielberg still use this boring 40 years ago conventions today. It symbolizes the sheer lack of innovation in regards to American cinema over the past century. The only difference is that films (like the War film) have advanced in special effects and showmanship.

Fuller’s praising of All Quiet on the Western Front worked excellently in discrediting A Walk in the Sun. This makes me contemplate the motives behind All Quiet on the Western Front. It is that obvious that Milestone was neglectful of human feeling in his later films. All Quiet on the Western Front had to have been made for an ulterior motive than just being an anti-war film. Either way, it is a much better film than A Walk in the Sun. Samuel Fuller is one of the most qualified to analyze the war film. Being a World War II Veteran, writer, and film director gave him the holistic viewpoint. Fuller later provided his take on World War II combat with The Big Red One. Saving a “Kraut” at the end of the film showed Fuller’s human view of the enemy and the universal qualities of all sides during war. A Walk in the Sun didn't even show the German enemies face. I always find filmmakers analyzing films to be the most enlightening. With film critics like Roger Ebert, it always feels like something is missing. Samuel Fuller was a rebel in the film industry when they didn't even exist. Confronting controversial issues with boldness, innovativeness, and honesty, Fuller was his own man.

-Ty E


George Payerle said...

I wonder if Fuller knew that the military adviser, Col. Drake, apparently, according to Wikipedia, started out as a WW I private and worked his way up through the ranks.

Old Rockin' Dave said...

1) My uncle, a combat engineer in Tunisia and a Ranger from Sicily to Anzio, thought the film was authentic. He once recounted an encounter with a German armored car very much like the one with the halftrack in the movie.
2) Plenty of soldiers fought without ever getting a close up view of a living enemy soldier. The movie is about an American platoon so there is little to be gained by showing German soldiers' faces.
3) The melting pot view of the Army in WWII is very real. Americans from all parts of the country and all walks of life served together. My former father-in-law was a Jewish guy from Canarsie who served in Italy with the outfit portrayed in the movie, the 36th Texas National Guard division. Or read Audie Murphy's "To Hell and Back."
4) The Italian army was largely composed of hapless draftees who had little love for Mussolini, Hitler or war in general and by 1943 were perfectly happy for a chance to be out of the war. They were not cowardly, and are not shown that way in the movie. They just had nothing left to fight for and they wanted to go home.