Waltz with Bashir
directed by Ari Folman
(Sony, 2008)

I saw Waltz with Bashir at a matinee at a multiplex in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, a resort town. I am somewhat film-savvy and was well aware of what it was about and drove nearly an hour to see it. (It was playing in Maryland, but I happened to be in Delaware.) There were only three people in the audience, myself included. The other two were an elderly married couple. After it ended, the couple immediately came up to me. They were very disturbed and wanted to talk to someone, anyone, about what they had just seen. In conversation, it turned out the only reason they came is that they heard it won an Oscar and they wanted to see movies that had just won an Oscar.

This middle-class American couple had no point of reference to assess the movie and wanted me, a total stranger, to "explain" it to them. I make no claim to be the great explainer and I make no pretense to being intellectually superior, but I tried to tell them that this movie was based on real events and made by an Israeli who experienced them. They basically wanted to know what they were expected to think about it. That's when I made a hasty exit.

Sadly, Waltz with Bashir seems to be relegated to a specialized audience -- people who care what happened in Lebanon in 1982. Plus, film buffs. It should be seen by everyone with an interest in what goes on outside Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. But the issues the movie raises are incomprehensible to most -- far too many -- Americans.

Let there be no doubt -- this is film art of the highest order, and a landmark in film history. As the movie progressed, using what I assume is rotoscoping in combination with full-fledged animation, I realized the filmmaker had chosen these means because no other way of telling his story his way was possible.

When the ending turned to newsreel footage, I found myself hoping, praying, that the film would return to rotoscope for some kind of coda. "He's not going to leave us this way," I thought. My eyes were full of tears and my heart was in my mouth.

I won't say more.

See this movie.

review by
Dave Sturm

5 December 2009

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