THIS DVD'S 24 brief additional interview scenes don't add much of substance to Errol Morris' Oscar-winning doc about JFK's and LBJ's secretary of defense, but that's all right. On disc May 11, the movie is definitive to begin with— required viewing for anyone who wants to fathom how we blundered into Vietnam, bristling with implicit insights into our current Iraq debacle. It is also, quite apart from its historical and political value, a first-rate work of art dramatizing one of the most fascinating lives of the last century. The old lion you meet here is worlds apart from the walking war machine Alec Baldwin portrayed in John Frankenheimer's The Path to War. Robert McNamara is startlingly candid about the flat-out idiocy of the domino theory that propelled the conflict, critical of all unilateral military action, analytical about the moral dilemmas he faced and often failed, and emotional about the human costs of his career. He is also wriggly as a greased pig on crack.
Despite skillful, indefatigable questioning by the wily Morris, you will not hear McNamara explain why he remained loyal to LBJ's catastrophic reversal of the plan JFK and McNamara began to get America out of Vietnam by 1965. Morris' faint voice is occasionally heard off camera, but McNamara heard him loud and clear and spoke while viewing Morris' face superimposed over the camera lens. The effect of his self-invented Interrotron™ is to give the viewer the best simulation of a face-to-face conversation with an interview subject that cinema has ever achieved. Even on this hot seat, McNamara manages to duck certain crucial questions. To this day, he simply refuses to criticize his presidential employers. Inadvertently, he proves that sometimes, when a warmongering Texan liar in the grip of ideological delusion threatens America, a man of wisdom and conscience is obliged to speak the truth and expose the folly. Colin Powell, have you seen The Fog of War?
ALSO OUT MAY 11, Jim Sheridan's autobiographical In America may end up a popular, if sentimental, rental (he provides commentary). Toni Colette and the landscape of Australia are the two best things about Japanese Story. Former UW student Anna Faris reprises her role in Scary Movie 3. Oh, there's another Paris Hilton movie, this one R-rated, called Nine Lives; seems she's battling ghosts in Scotland. The '70s Hollywood chronicle Easy Riders, Raging Bulls we'll review next week.