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American Son (2008)
In one of Truffaut's films from the French New Wave, people get together after a movie to discuss the movie within the movie. What they discover is that no two saw the same film. It might be something like this in American Son. It is tense, gripping, raw, and, at times, senseless, and its interpretation will depend upon the viewer and his or her own particular set of references and attitudes. It can also be seen against another French background, that of the trilogy written by Jean Paul Sartre. These works of "fiction" had to do with the French resistance and the war to liberate France. At one point the hero, or protagonist really, has an opportunity to while away an afternoon inside a bar. He listens over and over again to an American forty-five, as if somewhere in the music or the lyrics or the composition at large is the meaning that has been completely lost in the conflagration at hand. This war was not like other wars. It disproved the existence of God. It more or less convinced humanity that life is not worth living. It indicated that evil has a better chance than good to take command and keep it. It showed that governments are paper mache. All is a facade. The single contradictory feeling the protagonist cherishes is that of his shoulders rubbing up against other shoulders in a prisoner-of-war camp. At least there is something human left after the devil has by now certainly taken the hindmost.
And so Mike, an American son, must shove off for Iraq in 96 hours. The Iraq campaign has no meaning. Life at home has no meaning. Unless it is to get into a never-ending fracas at a convenience store. America is cracking up. But its citizenry keeps trying. There are romances, brotherhoods, friendships, tiffs to be mended, and new ties yet to be forged and solidified. And then there is that mystery that has no equal, American foreign policy. The best minds cannot figure it. And Mike, who wants to do the right thing, has enormous potential and enviable qualities, is caught up in the maelstrom. He might survive. One hopes that he does. But it will not be the wisdom of Washington DC that will ensure his existence. He may well wind up like a friend who hobbles about on one leg, falling and joking about it at the same time.
American Son deals with serious stuff, and it is not surprising that it is also a Sundance film. Hollywood does not have the guts. It is also an important film. Today, America is on the brink of possibly its greatest disaster: the election of a man who holds dear a set of values over and above all things American. It is uncertain as to what force he owes his allegiance. The Nazis were like this, too. They nurtured folkloric qualities wherein the words seemed right as well as the tunes -- all at the edge of the pit. What comes after conservatism if not fascism? What happens to a conservative when he tires of clean television programs and not consuming too much fat or sugar? What happens when he is bored by ridicule and turns toward corporal punishments? How will he fill his quota of pain, insult, and hurt? Romney needs to be monitored the same as any of his breed. He is unknown and an unhealthy gamble against the odds. People may not particularly like Obama, but Americans are safe under his presidency, something that has been overlooked. One may not like the state of America at present, also, but elect Romney, and there will be thousands and thousands of American Sons sacrificed to causes that will be at once incomprehensible and inexplicable. And then, it can only get worse.