JFK (DVD, 2008, Special Edition Director's Cut) Reviews
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JFK (DVD, 2008, Special Edition Director's Cut)

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JFK (1991)

Mar 10, 2000
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:cast, editing, cinematography

Cons:spreads paranoid propaganda, homophobic, bogus

Detractors of JFK have compared the film with the notorious Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will. The comparison is unfair, since Jim Garrison wasn't Adolf Hitler, and Garrison is depicted as human (although heroic).

But it is true that director Oliver Stone created a shameful inversion of history, and crafted a mountain of lies into a preposterous paranoid conspiracy. Except for those scenes that depict Garrison as a family man, the entire script for the film is essential a series of dramatically enhanced lies, unproven accusations, and distortions.

To properly refute the film's statements would take many thousands of lines. Instead, I'll use an example. Costner as Garrison states that Kennedy's limousine was riddled with bullets, then replated by the Government to cover this up. This is to support the theory of three separate shooters, firing from different angles. There is no proof of any of this.

Among the dubious conclusions of JFK: Lee Harvey Oswald wasn't the shooter, but a fall guy who tried to stop the killing; the actual assassination was a conspiracy involving the CIA, the Dallas Police Department, President Johnson, the Mafia, anti-Castro Cubans, and the 'industrial-military complex'.

In the process, Jim Garrison is glorified as the one man seeking the truth. In fact, he seems to have been a publicity hound who used disreputable tactics and completely unreliable witnesses to put an innocent man on trial, bankrupting him in the process. The jury took less than an hour to find Clay Shaw not guilty, as the culmination of Garrison's multi-year investigation. To this day, no evidence exists besides hearsay linking Shaw to any conspiracy against JFK.

Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) is a New Orleans District Attorney who becomes suspicious of the Warren Report on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He begins his own investigation, trying to link David Ferrie (Joe Pesci) to Kennedy's accused killer, Lee Harvey Oswald (Gary Oldman). Garrison theorizes a massive conspiracy exists to frame Oswald, but his case is ruined when Ferrie dies shortly after he is arrested.

A new investigative target is found in Clay Shaw (Tommy Lee Jones), a prominent New Orleans businessman and homosexual. Garrison's chief witness against Shaw is Willie O'Keefe (Kevin Bacon). Garrison's personal life as a family man is also explored. His drab, protesting but faithful wife Liz is played by Sissy Spacek.

JFK has many big name actors in small supporting roles. Donald Sutherland, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, and John Candy show up, among others. Jim Garrison himself has a small role as Chief Justice Earl Warren. (Garrison died in 1992, less than a year after the film's release.)

One can argue that since JFK is not a documentary, it does not have to be accurate. Certainly a film does not have to be historically correct to be entertaining. However, when a film's script is patently hot air, but claims to represent the truth, it becomes propaganda. This creates a polarizing effect on its viewers. Some will accept the film's intent, while others reject it.

Those who accept JFK can turn to the outstanding cast for support for their view. The editing is technically excellent, although very misleading with its mix of contemporary sources and staged dramatizations. The story is both important and compelling. However, not only is it incorrect, much worse, the story is completely unbelievable.

One scene has Garrison stating that Robert Kennedy will have to be killed, because if elected he will uncover the conspiracy. Sure enough, minutes later Kennedy is shot on national television. This can be broken into any number of implausible implications: that Garrison foresaw the assassination of RFK, that RFK was killed by conspirators, that the conspirators purpose was to stop the investigation, that RFK would have uncovered the conspiracy, that the assassination occurred on live national television.

What bothers me most about JFK isn't the slandering of innocents as conspirators, such as LBJ and the mayor of Dallas. It isn't the lies about the physical evidence, or unsupported crackpot allegations represented as truths. What bothers me most is the portrayal of homosexuals as drug-abusing social deviants and sinister, murderous conspirators. What we don't understand must be evil, according to Oliver Stone.

JFK was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor (Tommy Lee Jones). It won for Best Cinematography (Robert Richardson) and Best Film Editing (Joe Hutshing, Pietro Scalia). (49/100)



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