Johnny Got His Gun
(Dalton Trumbo, 1971)
I think it was the Ratings Project Communal Watchlist
that first made me want to watch Johnny Got His Gun
(8.18 average from 5 votes, at last count), plus the film's position in PeacefulAnarchy's Top 100, a list with which I find a good deal of kinship. (I'd totally forgotten that Metallica's video for "One" serves as CliffsNotes for the whole movie.) Somewhere along the way, though, I got nervous that Trumbo's film wasn't going to be to my liking — perhaps just an impression I got while looking at screenshots — and, unfortunately, my viewing tonight has borne out that concern. Through the first half, I actively disliked the experience. There's something just ... icky ... about it, which is crap criticism on my part, but what can you do. I'm generally quite open (and even partial) to depressing material, even when drably presented, but Johnny Got His Gun
felt like an ordeal. I suppose you can argue that that's part of the point — for the audience to endure a fraction of Joe's torturous existence — but the point of it all just seemed belabored to me.
Things started to improve when Timothy Bottoms (as Joe) had a one-on-one scene with Donald Sutherland (as Jesus Christ), partly just because I so enjoyed seeing Sutherland in that role. Jason Robards' has a few nice Robards-y moments as well, bringing some professionalism to a largely amateur cast (or an amateurly-directed cast, perhaps). These moments helped bridge some of the distance that existed between me and the movie, and in the second half I was at least able to appreciate some of what I was seeing, if only on a theoretical level. I wish the fantasy imagery had added up to more, and I wish the script had dug deeper into its core themes rather than just hammering them home on an endless loop. Along those lines, I thought Trumbo's film compared unfavorably with another film by an writer-turned-director that I watched for this club, William Peter Blatty's The Ninth Configuration
I hate not having liked this more, but I'm glad 1SO
did back when they watched it for the Communal Watchlist marathon. I'm curious, PeacefulAnarchy, if you yourself have seen this more than once; it seems like the kind of film that, even as a favorite, one might be reluctant to revisit.
Ideally I'll get to a second film this month (Jeanne Dielman
and The Burmese Harp
were my original targets, but I'm also really anxious to see Letter Never Sent
and Flesh and the Devil
), with the caveat that I'm still playing catchup for the last few months. So we'll see. edit:
I was originally planning to watch the DVD of The Great Silence
that I've had sitting here for a year, but then I saw that a new restoration was playing theatrically (which I just missed), so now I'm holding out for the Blu-Ray.