13 May 23, 19 75 10″ CORDS MAGAZINES 5 ILI LAACA AUSTIN; IVO IN DALLAS 4535 ST111g mc sloq w Laos wit aos ZA$6. 0W can ALSO 610 wASHING}oN IN WACO `Hearts and Minds’ One battle, two wars By Rod Davis Dallas It is the wrong title by half, overstating the issue just as President Johnson did: ‘We must be ready to fight in Vietnam, but the ultimate victory will depend on the hearts and minds of the people. . . .” But Vietnam was never about winning minds. It was about winning hearts. The war failed, we now know; the film, Hearts and Minds, succeeds. But only on the same battleground: our hearts. It is not a small victory. Presidents sought it. When LBJ smiled over his bifocals and spoke of “our boys,” when Richard Nixon sought “peace with honor,” they said: trust me, believe me, we will come out okay, just as we always have, with faith. In the same way those administrations told us the war was good, producer Bert Schneider and director Peter Davis tell us now, if there are any stragglers in 1975, that the war was bad. To make the point, Hearts and Minds tugs again at those same tired strings that have been played so well by warmakers, songwriters, and circuit preachers on hot August nights. In doing so, it classifies itself. It is propaganda, not art. Heart’s and Minds was one of several new films shown March 17-23 at the USA Film Festival in Dallas. Hollis Alpert, one of four national critics who chose Festival films for showing and discussion, selected it. Emotionally, the film is totally effective. It speaks deep truths long repressed by the media. In many ways, as Schneider agreed in a post-screening discussion, it is not an anti-war film. It goes beyond that, striking at the Vietnam that lives in the United States as well as in Indochina. Davis’ direction is brilliant and savage, with an extraordinary eye for ugliness in America. He sees the war not just in the Delta of the Highlands, but also in American Legion parades, high school football games with exhortations to “kill ’em,” vacuous cheerleaders, and in a delivery van driver who didn’t know if we were on the side of North or South Vietnam. The North, he thought. The juxtaposition is deadly. A child wails ceaselessly at his brother’s wooden coffin. Cut to General Westmoreland in Virginia explaining that Orientals don’t “put the same high price on human life as does the Westerner.” The Westerner. Never again can one see a football game or a regimented Thanksgiving parade without thinking of kill ratios, burned skin dangling from an infant’s bleeding feet, or amputees trying on new legs. Most of the emotional bases are covered. Parents of war dead, holding pictures of their sons and trying desperately to believe there was a reason. Former pilot Randy Floyd, now shaggy and bearded, numbed and crying at the thought of napalming children. Ex-POWs freaked into worship of the war and President Nixon. It is a powerful film in every respect. When it ended, I wished it could be shown to every person in the country, cabled into every television set, pre-empting Archie Bunker. Saying that, I knew what bothered me. It was Clockwork Orange and 1984, this time with a sympathetic end. In Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess showed us that a young hoodlum could be brought to hate his two favorite things, violence and Beethoven, by media manipulation. 1984 showed us proles at neighborhood theaters incited by watching other proles blown to bits. Davis and Schneider have done the same with the Vietnam war. We are given the classic scenes of cruelty: a naked girl running aimlessly, scorched by napalm; a point blank execution of a VC suspect. Do we not witness evil? Of course we do. We can hardly look at the screen in our revulsion. But it is a revulsion of ‘the heart, not the mind. It is an important difference, and one that is quintessentially American, here, where the heart is untutored. That Hearts and Minds touches us so mightily attests not so much to the quality of the film, which is excellent, as to the susceptibility of our hearts, which is boundless. Within Hearts and Minds, though, are its own special seeds of destruction. Portions of it consist of film clips from Forties pro-war movies and Birchish anti-Communist films from the Fifties. Watching now, we laugh smugly. Our parents didn’t. They responded well and faithfully when told to fear and loathe Communism and to wipe Japs and Chinks off the face of the earth. What else to think, with Clark Gable staving off banzai attacks? Wouldn’t you do the same for Robert Redford? No time for foreign policy analysis then. Just a gut message: Stop Hitler and Tojo. And it worked. Didn’t it just. Through Acheson and Dulles, Rusk and Kissinger. It worked because the heart is a ready judge: quick, decisive, committed. Because the rett0..7. A review 1 I mind heard nothing, the heart ruled. Hearts and Minds tell us to be bitter about Vietnam just as Joe McCarthy told our parents to hate Communists. Someone in the Festival audience asked Schneider why the film did not deal more with the theories of imperialism and “world policeman” that so motivated the Kennedy-Johnson-Nixon advisors. Schneider said he would have liked to, but there was no time. Foreign policy concepts would have been difficult to explain on film anyway, he said. What he might have said is that film is for the heart, not the mind. That is why Hearts and Minds frightens me. I know we are being manipulated here. We are not vindicated martyrs; we are white rats in a lab. And this: if skilled propaganda touches us so easily, can it not turn us in other directions? What if Peter Davis’ talents were used by Gerald Ford to take us back to Indochina? He would show us refugees dying on the road. Thieu sympathizers shot in the streets, babies drowning in the sea. But the villain would be Hanoi. We’d buy it. Sure as hell. But we agree with Hearts and Minds. Perhaps there is a place for it. Counter-propaganda to Pentagon lies. Perhaps we need a Madison Avenue of Davises and Schneiders to combat the Davis is a former Associated Press reporter.
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