Critical Condition: The Vietnam War

The Vietnam War | Maori TV, 8.30 Monday

➢ “Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s astounding and sobering 10-episode PBS documentary took a decade to research, film, edit and ultimately perfect. It clocks in at 18 hours — a length as daunting as its subject, yet worth every single minute of your time. I’ll go so far as to call it required viewing, before you watch anything else on TV that will come (and probably go) this fall season, especially all those new fictional dramas that celebrate special-ops teams quietly taking out America’s terrorist enemies with little muss and no fuss.” — The Washington Post.

➢ “The first episode pedals back to 1858 and the French conquest of Indochina. Most of it is devoted to Vietnam’s colonial history, the rise of Ho Chi Minh and France’s own doomed war. This gives you a sense of the scope of the series, at 18 hours and 10 episodes one of Mr. Burns’s longest … The saddest thing about this elegiac documentary may be the credit it extends its audience. The Vietnam War still holds out hope that we might learn from history, after presenting 18 hours of evidence to the contrary.” — New York Times.

➢ “On a micro level, The Vietnam War can’t compete with a subject-specific film like The Fog of War or Last Days in Vietnam or Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision or the still-seminal 1974 film Hearts and Minds, but as a macro examination, what Burns and Novick have accomplished is often remarkable, even if the filmmakers’ familiar aesthetics and familiar intellectual approaches lead to occasional moments of head-scratching or frustration.” — The Hollywood Reporter.

➢ “The Vietnam War centres on one-on-one interviews with anti-war protestors, Pentagon personnel, bereaved families, and of course veterans — both American and Vietnamese. The strength of The Vietnam War comes from these 80-odd interviewees, who offer a glimpse into the psyches of people on all sides of the conflict — from reluctant American draftees to enthusiastic North Vietnamese recruits. What is most striking is how their emotions about the war, even now, seem to be just under the surface of their day-to-day lives.” — Variety.

➢ “While The Vietnam War is unmistakably a Ken Burns/Lynn Novick/PBS documentary, its use as a document suffers somewhat from an aesthetic allegiance to itself. There are moments in which The Vietnam War might have stepped out of its tidy bunker and utilised some of the oceanic research and interviews that have been done by others since the war ended in the mid ’70s.” — Wall Street Journal.

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