Good Stuff

Pierre Schoendoerffer’s The Anderson Platoon might be the best war documentary I’ve ever seen. In ’66 he spent six weeks with an American platoon in Vietnam, filming it during a couple of firefights, while it was pinned down during an attack on a village, and mourning its losses–a grunt’s eye view of the war. Schoendoerffer gets up close to the soldiers, especially the South Carolina farmboy who goes on leave in Saigon; his plans include getting a hotel room with a private bathroom (he’s never had one) and seeing the elephants in the zoo. He gets the hotel room but never sees the elephants–instead, he hangs out with a beautiful streetwalker on whom he lavishes presents, including a guitar she can’t play, running through his money so quickly he goes back to the platoon four days before his leave is up. There’s also a pre-battle sequence showing half the platoon receiving Communion while the other half shoots craps on a cardboard box spread out on the ground, as artillery fire roars around them all. The film feels like the Patient Zero of some Nam-movie cliches, e.g., the platoon’s trudge through a jungle to “These Boots Are Made for Walking”. It was well-known enough at the time–it won the best documentary feature Oscar that year–but it’s never made it onto DVD. (A version of it with narration by Stuart Whitman appeared a year or two later, perhaps for American TV–that version is on disc. I’m not sure how it differs from the original.)

One Response to “Good Stuff”

  1. What are we doing? « Tom Blog Says:

    […] and all that other stuff, so much so that it can easily stand in as the 2000s’ version of The Anderson Platoon. Mostly, though, there’s the unforgettable sequence where the guys in the platoon simply lose […]

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