Friday, June 29, 2007
Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima (Warners, $34.98), the companion piece to his well-made, thoughtful, but not wholly successful Flags of Our Fathers, is easily the best picture of the duo, a quietly stirring and unobtrusively evocative filmic retelling of the Japanese side of 1945 Iwo Jima battle. It obviously wasn’t box office boffo, although the simple accomplishment of making a sub-titled, Japanese soldier point-of-view without one central white-faced figure would have been nearly impossible in the Hollywood of the past, even during Eastwood top-of-the-world-ma- heyday in the late 60’s--early 70’s. Clint the filmmaker brings his usual plethora of John Ford-meets-Don Siegel-meets-Sergio Leone cinematic mechanics to the fore, and the film (magnificently shot by cinematographer Tom Stern) is all grays, flying dirt, and misty vistas seen through a grunts-eye-view with only the slightest of omniscient shots to set the tale in motion. The violence is of the non-operatic variety, quick, lethal, and casually brutal, and the movie’s mission to lay out the opposing philosophies of the ground soldiers of two sides amidst their shared fear of imminent death is done without trotting out the message board. Letters from Iwo Jima is a first-rate examination of war and warfare and one of Eastwood the Auteur’s finest technical and thematic efforts.