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film

J. Hoberman on Godard’s Notre Musique and war films

LIKE MUCH IN contemporary Hollywood movies, the current model combat film was developed by Steven Spielberg. Saving Private Ryan (1998) provided a total immersion in state-of-the-art virtual carnage—the opening D-day landing is the most impressive demonstration of cinematic virtuosity of Spielberg’s career—while conspicuously failing to provide any historical context. Representing World War II but thinking Vietnam, Saving Private Ryan proposed the army’s band of brothers (rather than, say, the Nation or some abstract ideal or even the nature of the enemy) as war’s ultimate source of moral justification.

Although released two summers too late to help the last-hurrah presidential campaign of World War II hero Bob Dole, Saving Private Ryan did create the template for the Mogadishu bloodbath of Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down (2001) and the gruesome Battle of Ia Drang in Randall Wallace’s We

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