As I have often mentioned on this blog, one of the many nice things about living in Tokyo is the chance to classic films on the big screen. Toho Cinemas at Roppongi Hills was one of the few cinemas open yesterday on New Year’s Day, and when I was there to see Mission: Impossible, I noticed the were screening MASH today. I’ve seen this once before on DVD, but as with almost any other movie, seeing it on a big screen is a different experience.
A lot of criticisms have been leveled against Robert Altman’s MASH, namely that it is sexist, mean-spirited, racist, encourages doctors and med students to view themselves as superior and makes light of a very serious war, all of which are more or less true. Although this is a comedy, there is an anti-war message in between all the jokes, but it is subtle. Hawkeye and Trapper John never have to experience the horrors of war firsthand—the only gunshot heard in the film is used to signal the end of a quarter in a football game. But their long, overnight shifts sewing up injured soldiers who endless spurt blood take their toll on them, and the only way they can keep sane is to behave like spoiled (and heavily alcoholic) children when off duty. The film does succeed in conveying what a strange situation the characters are in. It is something that was lost in the TV series, which ran far too long for its own good, as the more graphic content from the operating room could be shown on television, so you are left with just the silly gags. There were no laugh-out-loud moments for me this time around, and as a long-time resident of Japan, the scenes supposedly shot here, but obviously shot in Southern California, were a bit offensive. But it was nice to spot a young Bud Cort, and like most Robert Altman films, there is a quirky atmosphere you can enjoy until it unravels into chaos in the final scene.