JFK

I've seen parts of JFK before, Oliver Stone's infamous 1991 movie. I've met and worked with someone who has a bit of a minor role in it (Michael Rooker, in a student film I helped make at DePaul). But I've never sat down and watched the whole thing from start to finish. I've heard a lot about it - everyone told me it was very controversial, because it isn't accurate to the real events. I'm too young to really understand the JFK assassination, but I understand what is presented in this movie - obsession, unrest, skepticism. I know these feelings from other tragedies that have happened during my lifetime. How people feel is not always accurate. Like when people are interviewed directly after a crime, their testimonies are usually wildly inaccurate. The point isn't that facts - the point is how we feel. I think that's the point of JFK. It's not trying to retell the events of the assassination, which most people are familiar with. It's trying to capture a mindset of doubt and unrest, and of the obsession with finding the truth.



Ebert addresses this in his essay as well, writing that people were upset with him for praising the film. He wrote, describing an altercation with Walter Cronkite who was upset about the lack of facts, "I have no doubt Cronkite was correct, from his point of view. But I am a film critic and my assignment is different than his. He wants facts. I want moods, tones, fears, imaginings, whims, speculations, nightmares" (The Great Movies, 234). This is what film is about. Film is not journalism, it is art. And being art, it stands as a reflection of culture, which is exactly what JFK is. It shows how people felt and thought. Ebert summarizes it nicely, saying. "It's like a collage of all the books and articles, documentaries and TV shows, scholarly debates and conspiracy theories since 1963" (The Great Movies, 236).

I really like Oliver Stone, and I was pretty much in awe of his skills as I watched this film. The editing was so outstanding and totally appropriate - a visual recreation of how it feels to be bombarded by news. He takes shots that have so much long rambling dialogue and makes them interesting and exciting to watch. I understand that this isn't "accurate", but I know that people are still asking the questions that are asked in this movie. Was there really only one shooter? Could the bullets have really followed that trajectory? I don't know, but I do know that people still wonder about this. Stone might not have presented the facts, but he did present a reality - the reality of how people feel about this.


Watching this movie in 2011, I thought of another movie about obsession, and not so much facts. I thought about David Fincher's Zodiac. I am in no way saying these two films are on the same level. But, thinking of Zodiac helped me to understand what was going on with Stone's film. I am more familiar with the Zodiac killer, and I could see clearly that Fincher's film was about one man's obsession, not facts. I could see a similar obsession in JFK, and I was able to start thinking more deeply about why Stone made JFK once I got passed the basic plot. These are movies that tap into our fascination with the morbid and gross, and our wonder at things we cannot understand.


If you haven't watched this, you have to. It's streaming on Netflix or available on Amazon Video on Demand. It's very long, but even being tired from work and made of migraines I was totally enthralled. I don't even know a lot about the plot, but I felt so into the emotions that the film presented. I wanted to explore the JFK assassination more, and find other things to watch or read so I can learn more about it, since I am so curious now. I felt so blown away by Stone's directing. He did something that seemed impossible - to make a ton of dialogue and old information feel exciting and new. Simply incredible. A journey back in time to an era I never lived in, a mindset I have never had. This is a truly amazing movie.


Have any of you seen JFK? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Links:
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on JFK
Trailer

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