Waltz with Bashir (Israel/Germany/France/USA; 90 min.)

directed by:Ari Folman
Vals Im Bashir

Michael says: "Just because a film’s subject matter is powerful doesn’t mean it will be well-executed.  That was the situation I found with WALTZ WITH BASHIR, Ari Folman’s acclaimed, animated documentary that details the director’s quest to uncover his repressed memories during his time serving in the Israeli Army during the first Lebanon War.  After a late-night conversation with a friend who details a recurring nightmare about 26 dogs that he killed during the war, Folman ponders the fact that his memory of the time during that conflict is spotty at best.  On a doctor friend’s advice, he interviews friends and fellow soldiers from the conflict to help fill in the gaps for him.  As these stories unfold, Folman, an artist, uses animation to show us the visual depiction of these war-time stories; sometimes literal, sometimes symbolic.  Slowly his memories return, but there is one day in particular, a day when Palestinian civilians were massacred in camps, that eludes him.  Not without good reason; as the climax of the film shows, it was a pretty horrific moment in history.

"Despite the acclaim, including a Golden Globe win for Best Foreign Film, and a record-setting seven Cinema Eye Honors nominations announced yesterday, the six of us who saw it pondered at film’s end why it wasn’t completely successful for any of us.  I was left fairly detached, sometimes bored, and despite being shaken by the powerful ending, fairly lukewarm about the film as a whole.  For me the animation worked fine, especially as an embellishment for the former Israeli soldiers recounting their stories.   Less effective for e were some of the recreated scenes of Folman discussion the situation with his friend or his doctor.  It was as if he was trying to dress the film up as a narrative, despite being an exploration of memory and a moment in history.  In some ways the film would have been more effective as a narrative, freeing Folman from being trapped by reality and allowing him to create more of a storyline, or dramatic arc.  There was also a notable lack of emotion surrounding Folman’s lack of memory, and worse, the recovery of those memories.  Altogether not a bad film, but certainly not entirely successful either.  2 ½ cats3 if I really stretch."

Diane says: Michael's right. There's an emotional punch that's missing in this film. (But try telling that to the New York Times reviewer!) I ascribe it to this: Folman sets us up to discover what war does to warriors, but the climax of the film is what war does to civilians. It's shown in a different way than the rest of the movie. My emotional connection was to the narrator, and at this most critical moment, he's gone.

"Every death and act of craziness in the film frightened me. The question of Folman's complicity in a civilian massacre was not more dire than the rest of the stories. I can as easily imagine PTSD stemming from a fellow soldier collapsing in my arms.

"The intercutting between conversations that take place in the present and recollections of 1982 serve to pace the story well. (Of course, some of those conversations reminded me of one of my favorite movies, WAKING LIFE.) The animation is able to present someone's (perhaps faulty) memories or supernatural nightmares without breaking tone. I liked the shadow puppet/silhouette look that the animators used often. And a repeated image of three soldiers emerging from the ocean like
zombies unsettled me every time.

"I've just started to read historian Joseph Garland's Unknown Soldiers, stories of WWII told for the first time by him and other men in his platoon. Garland says that war is glorified instead of revealed, generation after generation. 'This denying, this terrible
veil of silence, it has to stop.' WALTZ WITH BASHIR is another stepping stone on that path."