In the Year of the Pig (1968)

Director: Emile de Antonio

This film still seems to get criticised for being anti-American, which is, in my opinion, only a valid reason to judge a thing negatively if you believe being pro-American is the only acceptable position to take. Which I do not, and therefore I won’t criticise it on those grounds but on others. This makes for interesting comparison material after Point of Order, in that de Antonio is still taking pre-existing material and shaping it to a particular political point without adding explicit narration, but this time the political point is much more blunt (if you’ll pardon the expression) and the range of material—which also includes this time a fair proportion of newly shot interview footage—far wider. Because the topic is a lot wider, i.e. the Vietnam War and how America got involved and why hadn’t it got out yet; the US army vs the Viet Cong is a different proposition the US army vs Joe McCarthy. There’s another fundamental difference: when de Antonio made the earlier film, he was dealing with a closed chapter, a piece of recent history with a definite end, but when this appeared in late 1968 the Vietnam War was a long way from being resolved. There’s an old issue of Jump Cut in which de Antonio himself characterises it as “an organising weapon”, so evidently it was meant as a kind of rallying point for political activity against the war, to inspire people to get actively involved. And as such, that probably makes the film appear more dated now than Point of Order does, more of a period piece. The specific circumstances leading to the Vietnam War may or may not ever arise again, but McCarthy’s paranoia is a much more universal prospect; governments always need someone for the people to be afraid of, and all that changes there is the specific target of that fear… communists in the 1950s, Muslims in the oughts. Plus, being still an open topic, Year of the Pig doesn’t have the same sense of dramatic structure as Point of Order; while the approach is essentially chronological, there’s less sense of drive and direction. Not really de Antonio’s fault as such, of course—it’s hard to build to a climax when none is in sight—but it’s still probably the key thing that makes Point of Order the better film for me; I think I’d rather see that in the 1001 movies list than this.

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