~’MEN GO TO BATTLE’ . . conjuring up the Ghosts of the sad American story
tomorrow, THURS JULY 13, 2016 . .
is the last day you can catch ‘MEN GO TO BATTLE’ at the Anthology Film Archives, here in NYC. the film then travels to Los Angeles, and eventually it will land on Netflix, where I’m sure it will become a huge sleeper hit.
People will be watching it, every Thanksgiving.
‘MEN GO TO BATTLE’ – A FILM BY ZACHARY TREITZ (2016)
REVIEWED BY NANCY SMITH – JULY 13, 2016.
with a shout-out to the entire crew. gorgeous production, haunting sound, beautiful acting, deep not wordy screenplay, and really . . the cinematography – thank you BRETT JUTKIEWICZ !!
. . . for an indie film, wow.
last week was so heavy, with sad events in the life-blood of this country, apparently ‘civil war’ and the ‘slavery/black/white’ issue have still not been resolved, even though the Civil War took place over a century and a half ago, and brought 1/3 of all the country’s men to their death . . . that I felt I caught a really lucky break, first to be able to act upon the great reviews this sweet young film received in the mainstream press and then, even luckier . . to have the director ZACHARY TREITZ show up, unannounced . . and bring along as well – the 2 lead actors: TIM MORTON and DAVID MALONEY.
my heart stopped beating during the film, and my imagination froze to watch the Q & A in person, up close and personal, afterwards.
this film is a unique take on the Civil War. yes, it is a war ‘capture’ . . . but even more so, it is a peephole look into the heart of the maelstrom as seen through the eyes of 2 struggling Kentucky farmer brothers. when you are later informed that the director, Zachary Treitz, and the 2 lead actors, David Maloney and Tom Morton, all grew up in Kentucky, you understand why this small indie feature speaks – with such a deep, and authentic voice.
the film, in fact is the inverse of all the action-driven civil war projects you may have seen . . which doesn’t diminish the horror and sadness, but perhaps brings it closer to home. from the very first frames, the brilliant intense sun on the fields, and one man walking, your heart begins to skip beats, as you realize you are entering new cinematic territory. this film is just so intense and so hazy, just like that sun. I want to say it’s ‘new age’, a ‘millennial’ take: ‘hipsters’, ‘artists’, ‘friends’, locals’ . . going back for another deeper look – but, only to alert you to the power and newness of the filmmaking, itself. the story is timeless. but everything in this film is . . close up. singular. silent. and yet still – rewarding. fulfilling, unfolding, and ultimately, moving.
‘MEN GO TO BATTLE’ vs ‘THE REVENANT’ . . . AN INVERSION.
equally powerful, one film is a young, low budget unknown director production, the other as you know: huge $$$. the American landscape, the sun, the trees, the earth itself of this young sweet passionate land . . loom just as large, if not larger . . than the greed, violence, hope, dreams, family love/bonds . . that are used to tell the tale of times – not so long ago.
while ‘THE REVENANT’ indulges in great action & fight scenes, a big budget helps – ‘MEN GO TO WAR’ narrows in on the singular exposure that implodes one brother & sets the other on a very different path, a low budget helps in that, narrow defining . . . too, truth be told. but both films focus on family ‘bonds’, in one case of a father and his half-breed son, and in the other two hard-scrabble farmer brothers . . and use them to show . . what went asunder. what got lost, what kind of terrible growing pains, and biases – and struggle to survive and beat out the other – this country shuddered under, on a very personal scale. in the face of the broader history.
and yet, still . . where are we ?
what can you say, what could be more heart-stopping than to hear an intense, and not least of all innovative filmmaker, who has absolutely captured a dramatic moment in the nation’s collective history . . . and who has just won the TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL – BEST NEW NARRATIVE DIRECTOR AWARD, with his film . . . say hi, and start quietly introducing his film. a young man, who looks out at you, the way he will never be able to from the Netflix platform, and wonders . . . if you will get it ?
will his story unfold, will his film . . travel ?
I couldn’t help thinking of the first time I encountered & was able to catch a photo of the incredibly talented ALEJANDRO GONZALEZ INARRITU, in the Fall of 2003, at a Julian Schnabel opening, when he was also a young filmmaker wondering if his films would travel. he still wasn’t big in the press, even though ’21 Grams’ had just opened, and he had won a Best Film Drama, Golden Globes award the night before – for ‘Babel’.
that was, what .. 13 years ago ? and of course he swept the Oscars with ‘The Revenant’. such a powerful piece of filmmaking. and here stood this young director, just the same way. so passionate, so driven, so wondering.
like I said, the great . . inversion.
see: ALEJANDRO GONZALEZ INARRITU/artlovers archive
I read that ZACHARY TREITZ is now a New York City based writer and director, and I believe he said that the two lead actors were also now NYC based, but that originally they all hailed from Kentucky. so put that in your pipe, and smoke it. that’s so deep, what can you say in a sentence. it’s liking taking one of those old Appalachian Civil War era, patchwork farm quilts, that jump up for a few frames in the movie . . . stitching it up, making it whole again – and sleeping in it, which I do.
the story, and the story-telling . . is in their blood. Mr. Treitz even related . . that his ancestors were on the same trajectory of the successful Small family / Small’s Corner . . . that was depicted in the film, who also had everything taken away by the land burning / men maiming Civil War, and had to go back to the log cabin that their ancestors had first homesteaded in.
he looks in person just like he looks in the film, a ‘local’. a wise-cracker, fire-cracker, hard working striver. he reminded of nothing so much as (former New York City) gallerist BILL BRADY. in looks, and in his Kansas City drawl, and easy ways, and the climb. the big climb . . up.
‘MEN GO TO BATTLE’ vs ‘The NIGHT OF’ . . or: THE GAME OF KNIVES !!!!!
oh lord, yes. I was actually going to call this essay, THE TRIFECTA Of KNIFE GAMES, lol but I couldn’t remember if the defining deadly blows in ‘THE REVENANT’ were by blade or bullet. though I know a lot of steel was flashed. but . . if you caught the first installment of HBO’s fabulous ‘The Night Of’ . . . the knife game that Civil War era Francis plays on Henry, (and which sets the whole narrative re the Smalls and the future Francis Mellon marriage – in motion) . . . is focused on a very unlucky, but very probable, and not accidental !! knife wound to his bro Henry’s hand / and ego . . . is very eerily reminiscent of the future world of America, NYC after 9-11, a sinister urban disaster just waiting to happen to the wonderful young actor, RIZ AHMED . . as Queens ‘resident’ and would-be hipster partier/cabbie . . Nasir “Naz” Khan, who he gets his hand sliced in a knife game – gone wrong too.
this was the character I struggled to understand. maybe that’s a metaphor for THE WHOLE DAMN TIME.
it’s not the dominant bro, Francis whose path the film follows, it’s Henry’s. even though it seemed at the beginning, he might be the smarter of the two, or at least about money and mules !! or two are always better than one. his bro, the taller and perhaps older Francis gets increasingly aggressive with frustration, and out of hand, and stabs him in the hand . . in a knife game. which sets him in motion to being rejected by the rich town daughter and so, humiliated, both by wound, sibling rivalry, and girl .. and, plus the farm ain’t going nowhere anyways, he sets off for the Civil War. he just gets increasingly dumb-ed down and zoned out by the horror and loneliness, but then . . he gets smart again (lucky?) (well he wakes up intact under a mighty pile of dead young soldiers) and, when he comes back, sees his bro married (to the girl who rejected him) steals some dough $$$, from a squeaky wooden dresser in the ole cabin . . and rightfully so !! and sets off again, hopefully . . for happier adventures.
but, you just don’t know, because he seems kind of . . well, wounded.
you know: the walking dead.
as American as apple pie.
los dead boys.
WATCH: ‘MEN GO TO BATTLE’ – TRAILER
PHOTOS: NANCY SMITH, ‘MEN GO TO BATTLE’ screening, Anthology Film Archives, NYC. Sun July 10, 2016.
unless otherwise noted.