Gods and Generals

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A pig-headed romanticism about the ante-bellum American South still hangs in the air almost 150 years after its fall - an awfully late date to be spinning yarns in the wounded-nostalgia vein of Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind. Clocking in at nearly four hours and bankrolled by Ted Turner, this wooden historical re-enactment contends that the Civil War was fought essentially because a bunch of uppity Northerners invaded Virginia, a sanctum of fervent Christians who quote the Bible in daily conversation and treat their passionately loyal black employees with affection and respect. An hour goes by before 'slavery' is mentioned - in a college classroom in Maine, far north of what the script politely calls the 'Cotton States'. The procession of monotonous, oddly gore-free battles breaks frequently for bloated speechifying. Duvall sometimes hobbles by as a faintly senile Robert E Lee, but the film's parade of mouldy taxidermy gives centre stage to Confederate leader 'Stonewall' Jackson (Lang), a gentle zealot with a direct line to God. Ironically, Lang evokes iconic images of fanatical abolitionist John Brown, in a performance of such fascinating awfulness it does rough justice to the bird's nest glued to his face. In the gospel according to Turner and writer/director Maxwell, the war wasn't a political struggle with moral stakes, but simply a battle to defend home and hearth - and a home with a happy slave in the kitchen is where the heart is. (From the book by Jeff Shaara.)

By: JWin

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