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The Film Page- JFK

May 31, 2004

New on Films on Liberty and the State, Oliver Stone's controversial JFK:

"Kings are killed. Politics is power, nothing more!" In this film on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, director Oliver Stone delivers a scorching critique of the war-making United States government. The mysterious informant, Mr. X, explains, "No war... No money. The organizing principle of any society, Mr. Garrison, is for war. The authority of the state over its people resides in its war powers." Garrison later exclaims, "The war is the biggest business in America, worth $80 billion a year! [1966 dollars]"

The driving force of the film is a mystery... What really happened on November 22, 1963? As revealed in the director commentary on the film, Stone is not particularly attached to the theory the film puts forward about what happened that day. His main thrust is to make viewers dissatisfied with the official explanation. That he accomplishes with great skill.

A torrent of details comes hard and fast in a movie that is extra long (206 minutes). Stone's skill makes what could feel like an overlong lecture into a gripping mystery that makes time fly. The film is flawed by Stone's naive view of Kennedy himself, but this can be easily overlooked since the bulk of the film takes aim at the political elite.

Jim Garrison, then D.A. of New Orleans, is the only one to have brought a case to trial related to the assassination. He is the compelling central character of the film. In an appearance on a talk show (it was actually on Johnny Carson's show), Garrison describes a helpful thought experiment for those who are still naive about the nature of power politics, "... ask yourself, if we had learned on November 22, 1963 that the Russian Premier had been shot from a Moscow building by a lonely capitalist sympathizer who, himself, was then liquidated by a patriotic Muscovite within 48 hours while surrounded by armed police. I think it would be pretty apparent to anyone that a coup d'etat and a transfer of power had just taken place in the Soviet Union."

Rated R for language and brief nudity. See Murray Rothbard's essay on the Establishment hysteria over this film, (they doth protest too much).

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