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Hearts and Minds – The Criterion Collection #156 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 19, 2014 by  



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This is risky documentary work. Important documentary work that inspired filmmakers of today to go out and search for the truth. If you have an interest in the Vietnam War or war in general, this is one documentary that one should watch in their lifetime. Peter Davis’ “Hearts and Minds” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2014 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Hearts and Minds – The Criterion Collection #156

YEAR OF FILM: 1974

DURATION: 112 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:66:1 aspect ratio, English LPCM 1.0

COMPANY: THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: June 17, 2014

Directed by Peter Davis

Produced by Henry Lange, Bert Schneider

Associate Producer: Mike Burns

Cinematography by Richard Pearce

Edited by Lynzee Klingman, Susan Martin

Starring:

Georges Bidault

Clark Clifford

George Coker

Kay Dvorshock

Dwight D. Eisenhower (archived footage)

Daniel Ellsberg

Randy Floyd

J. William Fulbright

Brian Holden

William Marshall

Robert Muller

Khanh Nguyen

Walt Rostow

William C. Westmoreland

Ngo dinh Diem (archived footage)

Ngo dinh Diem (archived footage)

Bob Hope (archived footage)

Lyndon Johnson (archived footage)

John F. Kennedy (archived footage)

Robert F. Kennedy (archived footage)

Richard Nixon (archived footage)

George S. Patton IV (archived footage)

Ronald Reagan (archived footage)

A startling and courageous film, Peter Davis’s landmark 1974 documentary Hearts and Minds unflinchingly confronted the United States’ involvement in Vietnam at the height of the controversy that surrounded it. Using a wealth of sources—from interviews to newsreels to footage of the conflict and the upheaval it occasioned on the home front—Davis constructs a powerfully affecting picture of the disastrous effects of war. Explosive, persuasive, and wrenching, Hearts and Minds is an overwhelming emotional experience and the most important nonfiction film ever made about this devastating period in history.

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1974, a year before the Vietnam War ended, filmmaker, actor and journalist, best known for his work on CBS News and his award-winning investigation titled “The Selling of the Pentagon” (1971) would go on to create the documentary known as “Hearts and Minds”.

A documentary about American military action in Vietnam and to show a counter of what Americans were fed by their political leaders and on media, the film would show American soldiers during the war and their feelings of fighting in Vietnam but also the human suffering on both sides and that even in America, people are unsure what we were fighting for during that time.

“Hearts and Minds” would go on to win an Academy Award for “Best Feature Documentary” and France’s Prix Georges-Sadoul.

But despite the accolades that the film would receive, it was not an easy road for Peter Davis and crew.  Commercial distribution was delayed  in the United States, Columbia Pictures refused to distribute the picture which forced the producers to purchase the film from Columbia Pictures and release the film in Los Angeles.

The film would instantly become controversial with positive and negative reviews from a film that showcases the truth of what happened during the Vietnam War while others saw the film as anti-Vietnam War and nothing short of a propaganda film.  But that was to be expected as the debate of pro-war and anti-war raged on but if there was one thing that “Hearts and Mind” accomplished, it was an eye-opening experience to the ugly side of war and the toll it took on soldiers and civilians.

And now, after being released by the Criterion Collection in 2001 on DVD, “Hearts and Minds” was released on Blu-ray + DVD in June 2014.

Featuring footage from many sources, the film would feature P.O.W. George Thomas Coker and his return to New Jersey and visiting students and answering their questions about the war.  The film would feature various soldiers who have fought the war and are proud to be soldiers, while others who felt they were lied to by the government and what they found in Vietnam contradicted what they were sent there for.

From Vietnam War veteran and anti-war activist Bobby Muller, Daniel Ellsberg discussing his original feelings about Vietnam War and how it had changed to many war footage that many people had never seen at that time.

What people thought about the Vietnam War at that time, would surely see a different side of the war that they new nothing about.  Complex, important and brutally honest, “Hearts and Minds” was a documentary that opened the eyes of people all over the world of the ugliness of war.

VIDEO:

“Hearts and Minds” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio).  It’s important to remind viewers that as a documentary, footage comes from various sources. Some footage features damage to the original negative.  There are scenes with white specks that were in the original DVD version from Criterion. But there is better detail, more grain considering the age of the film and its various sources.  But the film does show improvement overall on Blu-ray compared to its older Criterion DVD counterpart.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit DataCine from the Academy Film Archive’s restored 35mm interpositive, which was produced under the supervision of director Peter Davis and cinematographer Richard Pearce. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, and splices were manually removed using MTI’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s DVNR was used for small dirt, grain, and noise management.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “Hearts and Minds” is presented in LPCM 1.0 with printed English subtitles when needed.  Dialogue is clear and understandable.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the restored magnetic DME tracks.  Clicks thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD.  Crackle was attenuated using iZotope RX3”.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Hearts and Minds” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring the original 2001 audio commentary by director Peter Davis.
  • Outtakes – Featuring two hours of unused footage which includes the following: Introduction, Philippe Devillers, George Ball, Tony Russo, David Brinkley, General William Westmoreland, Walt Rostow, Quang Nam Funeral, Cong Hoa Hospital.

EXTRAS:

“Hearts and Minds – The Criterion Collection #156” comes with a 46-page booklet.  Featuring the essays “Vietnam and Memory” by Peter Davis, “The Right Side of History” by Judith Crist, “The Human Connection” by Robert K. Brigham, “A Historical Context” by George C. Herring, “Moving the People” by Ngo Vinh Long.

The Blu-ray version comes with both Blu-ray and DVD versions of the film and special features.

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If there was one documentary that I find tough to watch today as I had a hard time watching it for the first time, that would be Peter Davis’ “Hearts and Minds”.

There is no doubt that the editing of the film is what it makes it so heartwrenching as we see a young boy crying for his father who fought for South Vietnam and his grandmother wanting to bury alongside with her son.

And possibly the most devastating words to hear from General Westmoreland’s mouth was “The Oriental doesn’t put the same high price on life as does a Westerner. Life is plentiful. Life is cheap in the Orient.”

Being an Asian American, just to sheer notion and generalization that Asians (or Orients as he would say), did not put the same high price on life as a Westerner is outrageous.

And then the images of young children trying to rush a naked girl who had been napalmed for help.  To see a grandmother or mother with her baby that had been napalmed trying to get help.

And to hear the words come out of U.S. Vietnam War veteran, Randy Floyd’s mouth, “We’ve all tried very hard to escape what we have learned in Vietnam. I think Americans have worked extremely hard not to see the criminality that their officials and their policy makers exhibited.”

It’s quite upsetting to hear the General William Westmoreland say such a generalization about how one country values life.  Most humans value their lives, value the lives of their family and the sad thing about watching him say those words was the fact that he meant it.  And many others felt the same way.

And this is the importance of this 1974 documentary is that it documents the feelings of our political and military leaders of the time.  Their feeling of United States being a world power and having control.  Misfeeding the American public with propaganda and making Americans feel that the war was going to end, America was the victor when in truth, America was losing the war and whatever happens, was left with the South Vietnamese people to deal with.

Some may say the same thing about Iraq and the fact that America came in, with no decisive win in the region which has since been ravaged by insurgents and is politically unstable and also a country where we left to Iraq people who we wanted to give freedom but now are in an uglier mess than ever before.

And that is the ugliness of war.  “Hearts and Minds” features the ugliness of wars to be seen on both sides but also, a generation that was raised upon American military superiority which was exhibited in World War II.  And the same people who would lead America in another war but this time, a war that not many people could understand.

But with that being said, there is an argument to be said for people who supported this film and those who were against it.

And in many ways, there is no way to take on a controversial theme without having viewers on both opposing sides having their own perspective in the matter.    Did Peter Davis use methods to anger Walt Rostow, did Davis take General Westmoreland out of context?  Fortunately, Davis had much to say in his audio commentary for the film but the fact that this film manages to feature both sides of the war, to show human suffering from the Vietnam side but all other aspects of the Vietnam War which people probably were unaware of at the time, there is no doubt that “Hearts and Minds” was a film that heavy hitting, bold and complex.

“Hearts and Minds” is an important film as it tries to seek the truth and let people have it and interpret it anyway they want.

Of course, since the making of this film, many other documentaries and many facts have come out about the Vietnam War.  But watching this film in 1974, 2014 or a hundred years from now, the message still remains the same.  War is ugly and there is no way to hide human suffering.

As for the Blu-ray +DVD, the majority of all content that was in the 2001 DVD is included on this 2014 Blu-ray release.  Picture quality and audio have shown an improvement and the booklet included is informative.  But it’s the audio commentary (that was originally recorded in 2001 for the original Criterion Collection DVD release) which many people who watched the film, will be interested in hearing.

It was not an easy documentary to make and I can imagine the risks, the struggles and many troubles that went into the making of “Hearts and Mind” but the fact is that Peter Davis has created a documentary that was audacious then and remains relevant now and also for our future generation who want to learn a side of war that you won’t read from the news or read about the Vietnam War in educational text books.

This is risky documentary work.  Important documentary work that inspired filmmakers of today to go out and search for the truth.

If you have an interest in the Vietnam War or war in general, this is one documentary that one should watch in their lifetime.

Peter Davis’ “Hearts and Minds” is recommended!

 






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