M.A.S.H. (Robert Altman)

M*A*S*H* is a surprise for me. It starts out rather bizarre, but halfway through the film, when the anti-authority hijinks burst onto the screen, especially that Last Supper tableaux, I knew this is going to be a fun ride, and what's great about this Vietnam War satire (the context in the movie is presented as the Korean War) is that the goofs are unpredictable. They come out left and right and without warning. 

To better characterize the film, let's just say PLATOON meets MONTY PYTHON.

M*A*S*H* stands for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, and focuses on three army surgeons (Donald Sutherland, Tom Skerritt, and Elliott Gould) as they go on making life during the war like a picnic. You got a by-the-book but lusty Major whom the surgeons call "Hot Lips" (Sally Kellerman), an escapade in Japan involving blackmail of a general by photographing him in a brothel, and a riotous football game which closed the film, and I could not have imagined any other way to close this hilarious send-up of army issues.

The confusion cannot be ignored in the film. You have several characters talking all at once, and the substance of the conversation you can barely recognize; then, you have a public address speaker who always messes up on air. I'd say there goes the filmmakers' stance on the war.

If only to characterize the Vietnam War, I'd surmise the message of the film is that of an elaborate farce: you have the sex, the slapstick, the insubordination, and what have you, and Altman effectively conveys all of that onscreen. The film is slow-building, but there are a lot of jokes you won't forget. Altman is a filmmaker who pays great attention to detail and dialogue; I've only seen this one and GOSFORD PARK (which is tremendously brilliant) and judging by the merits of both films, I am likely to unearth his other films.



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