Thursday, June 14, 2012

F.T.A. (1972)

A somewhat interesting artifact from the Vietnam War era, this documentary comprises filmed performances by a roving troupe of antiwar activists who toured small venues located near U.S. Army bases. The reason the picture got a theatrical release, and the reason it survives to this day via DVD and other formats, is the impressive wattage of the key participants. The major players are actors Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland, who also produced the picture (with director Francine Parker). So, even though the skits captured in the film are not particularly inspired, it’s fascinating to see the shag-coiffed “Hanoi Jane” at the height of her controversial campaign against the war. Her passion burns through the screen, even if it sometimes reads as naïve stridency. It’s also compelling to watch the faces of the soldiers in the audience, because one can only imagine what was going through the minds of these young men as they watched a revue nominally titled “Free the Army” but really known as “Fuck the Army.” Most of the sketches, which were written by a cabal of satirists, feature obvious lampooning of military bureaucracy with an undercurrent of humanistic revolt against the bloodshed of a pointless war. Yet not everything in the movie strives for humor. In a particularly arresting sequence, Sutherland reads aloud from Dalton Trumbo’s legendary 1939 antiwar novel Johnny Got His Gun, the story of a World War I soldier wishing for death after losing his facial features and all of his limbs. Elsewhere, folksinger Holly Near performs tunes typical of the earnest era in which the film was made. However, perhaps the movie’s greatest claim to fame is its obscurity. The week F.T.A. opened in America, Fonda traveled to North Vietnam for a trip many perceived as traitorous, immediately making her the right wing’s Public Enemy No. 1. Buckling to pressure, American-International Pictures pulled the film from theaters before it completed its first week onscreen.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

Nope - LAME or SQUARE.