Suicide Ain't Painless
The "multi-character anti-narrative mosaic" was invented with "MASH".
I've coined that ridiculous phrase myself, but how else do you describe
what Altman's created here?
Let's examine the ingredients. Firstly, Altman constructs a
self-contained environment. In "Gosford Park" it was a country house,
in "The Company" it was a ballet school, in "Prairie Home Companion" it
was a theatre and in "Short Cuts" it was nothing less than the city of
Los Angeles. In "MASH" Altman constructs a mobile army field hospital,
with functioning roads, helicopter landing pads, tents, barracks, mess
halls and a make shift golf course.
His environment created, Altman then inserts his cast. But rather than
give us a comfortable 3-act story, Altman has his characters interact,
seemingly spontaneously, within his giant set. And so within this huge
environment little mini narratives play out, the audience having to
work hard to pick out the subtle character arcs and personality traits,
Altman's camera floating back and forth, catching bits of dialogue and
fragments of story. I've never seen any other director treat film quite
This seemingly haphazard way of storytelling is further highlighted by
Altman's love for overlapping dialogue, shapeless scripts and his
willingness to let his casts improvise. Beyond this you then have the
typical self-referential Altman layer. The act of preparing,
improvising and putting on a performance is mirrored to the act of
preparing, improvising and creating Altman's film. In "MASH" the
"performance" takes the form of an operating theatre, football game,
peep show and radio sex act. But such a self-referential layer is
nothing new in Altman's filmography. "Nashville", "Buffalo Bill",
"MASH", "Gosford Park", "Prairie Home Companion" etc, all revolve
around large groups of people getting together and putting on a show.
What separates "MASH" from Altman's other films is how joyously
rebellious it all is. Altman has always been a cynical filmmaker with a
strong anti-establishment streak (one of his first films, a parody
called "Pot au Feu", was a cooking show which presented the recipe for
a cannabis joint), but never has he been this wacky and irreverent.
Wounded soldiers are airlifted to the tune of "Suicide is painless",
and the cast seems to go to great lengths to be as sexist,
misogynistic, anti-religious, anti-establishment and gory as possible.
But it's the juxtaposition between the film's playful sense of anarchy
and it's gory hospital scenes that is Altman's very point. These are
characters so engulfed by the sorrowful madness of war that their only
means of coping is to lose their minds in as controlled a way of
possible. You might say that their antics are precisely how they cope
with their environment; that war breeds chaos.
But just how anti-establishment is "MASH" and is it right to call it an
"anti war" film? In an essay comparing "Full Metal Jacket" to "MASH",
philosopher and film buff Slavoj Zizek deemed "MASH" Altman's most
conformist film. For all their practical jokes, jabs at authority and
sexual escapades, the MASH crew perform their duty with maverick-like
efficiency. They are no threat to the smooth running of the military
In other words, this very "detachment", the ability of MASH's cast to
adopt a persona of cynicism, practical jokes and mockery- to view
themselves as existing outside the system- is itself military ideology.
As to give oneself completely over to ideology, to revoke one's Self in
favour of a one dimensional military persona (Hot Lips) is itself a
suicidal act, working ideology requires the subject to retain a kernel
of individuality, whereby he views himself as being partially external
or opposed to the system he inhabits.
While Altman prides himself on being the great deconstructor of genre,
Zizek cites "Full Metal Jacket" as a deconstruction of Altman. Altman's
sex acts and attacks on women and religion become the institutionalised
acts of Kubrick's Sgt Hartman, religion upheld, femininity denigrated
and sex transposed to violence. While Altman has one troop seek and
then reject suicide as a cure for his sexual impotency, Kubrick flips
this by having a young cadet embrace suicide as the logical outcome of
his own sexual over-identification with the military. Altman's cast may
get a slap on the wrist for toying with a Christian trooper, but when
Pvt Joker denies the Virgin Mary, Kubrick is careful to counter violent
punishment with a swift promotion. In Kubrick's world, the individual
is nurtured by the very system that ultimately destroys him.
Significantly, the second part of Kubrick's film ends with a scene in
which Joker, a character seemingly plucked straight out of "MASH",
shoots a wounded Vietcong sniper girl. Far from an outsider, Kubrick
reveals Joker as the fully constituted military subject. In other
words, an ideological identification exerts a true hold on us precisely
when we maintain an awareness that we are not fully identical to it. By
"joking", by seeing themselves as "opposed" to military ideology, the
MASH boys are creating a human space that thwarts their own suicidal
self destruction. And what is suicide but total identification; the
giving of the Self totally to ideology.
Kubrick was a big Altman fan, and cast Mathew Modine in "Full Metal
Jacket" based on his performance in Altman's military drama
"Streamers". But what's interesting is that Kubrick's last war film is,
on one level, a response to the ineffectual rebellion of something like
"MASH". For all their antics, Altman's cast are simply school boys
making noise in between lessons.
Interestingly, while Altman's film ends with an overlong football
match, Kubrick filmed but then removed a sequence from "Full Metal
Jacket" in which his marines play football with a sniper's decapitated
8/10 Though it's more a carnival show than a comment on war, "MASH"
is still lots of fun. The film's irreverence has lost some of its bite
(1st major film to use the F word), but should nevertheless appeal to
those with a macabre sense of humour..
karolajna watch The Lookout movie
jeden z nejlepsich serialu vubec.
jitendra_chauhan1 watch The Night The World Exploded movie
This movie's a classic, I love it!! It's hilarious and you can't go wrong watching it! .
Borealis watch Dude Duck movie
This is the movie that led to a hit series that is still popular to this day..
midjefraeta watch Black Water movie
Excellent movie, better than the tv show..
Meeee watch Dead Man's Cards movie
Goddamn this is weird, how should I review movies I haven't seen yet. Who thought up this system? Huh??.
brilliant movie ,diplaying realities of war and the lengths people go to cope..
this is a fun war movie kelly's heroes is another fun war movie.
a movie with my personal taste :).
i love mash it my favorite tv series on tv land.
It Brought On Many Changes
You know you're in for something very odd when the theme song is named
"Suicide is Painless".
This is, inexplicably, considered an anti-war movie, as only a viewer
who has never actually seen one could describe it (and what Altman said
about his own work doesn't sway me - he outfoxed himself). On the
contrary, the whole story is about the love of the war, of the
situation that allows the hijinks to exist in the first place. If you
doubt it, ask yourself: Is there is single serious moment here? Nope,
it's insouciant from front to back, and therein lies its magic -- the
ability to sustain the surreal tone.
Note how there are four narratives at work. There is what we see,
tailored to the idea of "new cinema", including the nudity for comic
effect. Note also the arrangement of the doctors, a la Da Vinci's "The
Last Supper" in the 'black capsule' scene.
Not quite in line with this is what we hear. This is trickier, because
there's an effect intended by the juxtaposition of unrelated film
footage with audio, mostly dialogue. This is encapsulated on a smaller
scale in the 'Hot Lips' scene - the idea that we're listening in with
the aid of a microphone and PA.
The third is the juxtaposition of football and band music, reviving the
idea of silent film-era slapstick humor.
And fourth, the simultaneously omniscient and clueless PA
announcements, revealing that this is all about the making of itself,
later adopted in "The Player", for example.
This the necessary precursor to "Animal House", "Caddyshack" and
"Stripes", among others..