19 November 2006

94. patton

its called "patton" for a reason, and that reason is because this movie focuses solely on one man. its not like "the big red one" or "saving private ryan" or any other film about a collection of troops. this movie is about a particular man who finally found his calling, finally found an occupation -- a calling -- that fit with his penchant for speeches, for costumes, for lecturing, for his sense of dignity and the warrior spirit. this movie is unusual in that its a portrait of a man in his element.

the opening is fantastic. 70mm of an american flag and a profane man telling you and them how he feels. it sets up everything.

and then we move into the movie. it starts on a battlefield of course, then switches to the inner chambers -- the back rooms of war that we don't usually see. and we see patton in public as well as private, but he never acts differently. even stieger and the germans are interested in him (in unfortunately heavy-handed sequences in the nazi war rooms): he writes poetry, he believes in reincarnation, he is rebellious towards his superiors, "he prays on his knees but curses like a stable boy."

but mostly, he seems like a man who lives life as though he's always imagining what it will look like posthumously. he's a man who is constantly surrounded by subordinates, and is conscious of how he acts and comes across. he is deliberate. he believes in pagentry: parades, costumes, appearances, badges and stripes. they satisfy his vanity, which is legendary, but they also serve a different and more practical purpose as well: conformity in uniforms, cleanliness, and schedules breeds order in soldiers. and he is a true soldier, nothing else, so he holds that which makes a good soldier above anything else.

you can see coppola's hand in this script in his correct insistence on patton's affection for ritual. religious ritual, sure, but also the deliberate way he visits troops in the hospital, the way he gives a speech in corsica -- in french! -- from a balcony, the way he takes a private moment in front of the mirror, crowned with a battle helmet, binoculars like amulets, before he goes to battle.
for others these things might be an obligation, but for patton they are part of a role he has studied and rehearsed and is extraordinarily self-conscious about playing in the right way. the tragedy is that his vanity breeds temper and outburst and that's his achilles' heel, marginalizing a man who was, in his mind, born to do this work, and was doing in it obligation in this life and many previous ones.

on a personal note, it was interesting and illuminating to see a 3-hour movie with an intermission that focuses almost exclusively on one flamboyant man and his downfall. that's a loose description of my script "the stick-up kid", news about which i will reveal soon...


Blogger skirt said...

wait, news about "stick-up kid"? Really? have you heard back? Please share...please...

11:08 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

hands down the best American general the 20th century I can only imagine if you would have become president instead of eisenhower the Russians would have been deep deep shit. .

8:59 PM  

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