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Hearts and Minds: Criterion Collection DVD Review

Hearts and Minds: Criterion Collection

July 16, 2014

Director: Peter Davis,
Starring: Georges Bidault, Daniel Ellsberg, Randy Floyd, Nguyen Ngoc Linh, William Westmoreland,

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DVD Review

Peter Davis’ powerful, Academy Award-winning documentary Hearts and Minds (1974) was made before the war in Vietnam ended in 1975. Not surprisingly, it became immediately embroiled in controversy as the United States was deeply divided and conflicted about their government’s involvement in Vietnam. Davis’ film digs deep, going back to the 1950s when the U.S. backed the French occupation of the country. He also examines why America was so interested in Vietnam – to stop the spread of Communism in Indochina.

Most significantly, Hearts and Minds examines the effect the war had not only on the soldiers that came back, but also the families of those that did not. Davis shows the patriotic ceremonies as a returning soldier dutifully touts the party line. This documentary has a good mix of people disillusioned with the war and those that firmly believe we were doing the right thing being there.

There’s the stock footage of jets and bombers taking off and launching their payloads, which David juxtaposes with interviews with two former bomber pilots who talk about the experience of going on a mission and how it made them feel. Crucially, we see footage of a Vietnamese man whose pig farm was eradicated by a bomb. Another villager talks about the death of her sister from bombing. This deeply moving footage underlines the cost of the war on the average person – they sometimes lose everything and have to find the will to rebuild. For the pilots it is nothing more than a job, but for the villager it is very personal.

The scars from the Vietnam War still linger and Hearts and Minds is a sobering reminder of the cost that comes from interfering in another country’s business. Our government always tries to put a positive spin on it to justify their involvement, but it comes at a terrible price as this documentary so amply demonstrates. Davis’ film masterfully examines the war from the point-of-view of the double-talking politicians and from the haunted veterans that must live with what they did over there. He spends ample time with the pro-war types and the antiwar folks to offer a balanced look at a complicated war.

Special Features:

This new Blu-Ray transfer faithful restores Hearts and Minds’ grainy, low-budget film stock and really captures the texture of the film.

There is an audio commentary with director Peter Davis that was carried over from the previous DVD edition. He starts off talking about what he wanted to achieve with Hearts and Minds. He explains why the documentary has no narrator and provides a brief backstory to all of the interview subjects, explaining why they were included. Best of all is his filming anecdotes, especially his story about General William Westmoreland. This is a fascinating and informative track.

New to this edition are over two hours of unused footage and outtakes. Perhaps most moving is two scenes of South Vietnamese casualties, one which takes place at a funeral, the other at a hospital. There is also footage of noted journalist David Brinkley talking about his views on the Vietnam War. There’s also more with Westmoreland who commanded the U.S. armed forces in Vietnam and was a much-despised figure by the antiwar protestors.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 90%

Website: http://www.criterion.com/films/711-hearts-and-minds

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One Response to “Hearts and Minds: Criterion Collection”

  1. androidyandyNo Gravatar on July 25th, 2014 2:43 pm

    RT @WhatDVD: Hearts and Minds: Criterion Collection: Peter Davis’ powerful, Academy Award-winning documentary Hearts a… http://t.co/VBHiG…

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