Tuesday, June 24, 2008
During the Korean war, three young military surgeons constantly fool around the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital they work at. Allergic to any kind of authority, against military operations, and loving alcohol and women before all the rest, they become really rebellious.
M*A*S*H belongs to political cinema and shocked a whole new generation. Extremely dark but also very humourous, the American Film Institute chose to make it the 56th best movie.
Starring Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, David Arkin, Tom Skerritt, and Sally Kellerman, it has been awarded with the Oscar for best scenario adaptation and with the Palm d’Or of the Cannes Festival in 1970.
It is probably seen today as a very interesting movie because it was very different from what Holywood was producing at the time. Indeed, the movie was going against the main stream. It has been shot on a very low budget in order not to attract the producers on set and realize what was about to go out on a nationwide scale.
Surprinsingly, one element that brought so much succes to this movie is the sound. Indeed, the way sound is designed is revolutionary in the movie. The mess tent (http://www.main-vision.com/richard/mash.shtml) in the beginning of the film is a good example of the multi functions of sound in M*A*S*H. The two doctors talk in the same time and this tells a lot about the upcoming story. Indeed, it tells the audience that the doctors are probably not military educated to the extent that they don’t even wait their turn to talk but it has for purpose to save time in the expostion and tell different stories at the same time: this is an innovative way to overlap sound. Also, the opening song “suicide in painless” introducing two doctors is very controversial and unexpected but gives an idea to the viewer of the genre of the movie: satire.
One other original conflict that the movie created happened at the time of its release. It was the authorship controversy (http://www.geocities.com/~cheshyre/mashline.htm). Robert Altman, the director, was used to sing his work with overlapping dialogue. In M*A*S*H, the effect turns out to be brilliant and very succesful. The dialogue sounds very witty and full of repartee. Altman is responsible for the pacing of the movie as he is responsible for the editing. However, most the words did not come from Altman but from the writer, Lardner. This turned out to become a very intense conflict between the two latter, fighting for credit. Altman mentioned that in his opinion, his “main contribution to M*A*S*H was the concept, the philosophy, the style, the casting, and then making all those things work. Plus the jokes, of course.”
In my opinion, M*A*S*H remains one of the most significant satire of the history of cinema. A satire is supposed to make fun of the negative aspects of our societies and all ideas that the author does not support and want to subtly criticize.
Robert Altman does a great job at turning the movie into a satire. Indeed, he takes a sad topic and turns it into a laughter, by joking around blook, terror, death and atrocities of the war.