Sunday, 15 January 2017

Review: M*A*S*H

M*A*S*H (1970)
Cert: 15 / 116 mins / Dir. Robert Altman / Trailer

There is a reason that this series of retrospective reviews has lain dormant for eight months. I've tried on several occasions to watch my chosen entry for 1970, Robert Altman's M*A*S*H, and failed. It's been turned off within the first half-hour with me under the impression that I just wasn't in a sufficiently receptive mood. So tonight I cleared the palette of my assumptions and expectations, and determinedly settled in for one of the most successful and critically acclaimed films of its year.

Spoiler-alert: I didn't particularly enjoy M*A*S*H in its entirety any more than I had throughout its repeated opening act. Several things appeared to be working against me. But whether it's my own lack of familiarity with the Korean war which is the setting for the story, my own lack of familiarity with the Vietnam war which is what the story's really about, or whether it's just a film intended and widely regarded as being A Comedy™ that I didn't find funny, I guess I'll never know. And sure, it's a satirical comedy but Ring Lardner's screenplay doesn't even boast the defiance of gallows humour, it's just largely 1960s slapstick and smut*1 padding out inappropriately grim scenarios. The film isn't punching up, just a loosely knotted collection of sketches with punchlines of varying visibility and effectiveness.

And I suspect that having characters mumbling and talking over each other for extended periods of time is meant to be a running joke, rather than a repetitious annoyance. That frequent unsteady crash-zoom was doing my head in, as well. The film has managed to sour my previously fond memories of the TV show.

Anyway, it's watched now, and I shall endeavour not to choose 'comedy' as the genre for future entries in the programme. Meh...

Have you really never seen this before?
Really, not. Used to watch episodes of the show on TV when I was younger, but never got into it enough to go back and watch the movie. Although if I recall correctly, the thing I enjoyed most about the series was Alan Alda's Hawkeye, and his character was played in this preceding film by Donald 'comedy legend' Sutherland…

So are you glad you've finally have?
Well, I guess.

And would you recommend it, now?
Not unless you were a fan of the TV series.
In which case, you'll probably have seen it

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Didn't hear one.

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: This movie features Robert Duvall, who also starred in George Lucas' first big-screen movie, THX-1138.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Complete with the racial, gender and sexual politics of the day, naturally. Although I understand that you can't judge a work of decades ago on the values of today, it doesn't mean you just have to accept its inelegance, either.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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