In the Year of the Pig (1969):

The pig of the title is the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, thoroughly roasted by Emile de Antonio's agitprop montage. The documentarian's method is Eisensteinian righteous, the raw materials copied and pasted to illustrate his sympathies -- the opener interrogates heroic statuary, a snapshot of "make war not love" scrawled on a grunt's helmet, a cacophony of helicopter whirring scoring it all. Later, leveling artillery provides the ominous pulse, and "La Marseillaise" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" get filtered snickeringly through Vietnamese harp and flute to burlesque imperialistic "peacemakers" aboard a deceived, deceiving overseas invasion. Joseph McCarthy pops up briefly as a reminder of Red scare and ignorance, though the main aspect carried over from Point of Order remains de Antonio's vertical selective editing for plot-making and razzing the puppets of history: Lyndon Johnson is bracketed by Kennedy and Nixon as American troops are sent to Southeast Asia, a glimpse of Gerald Ford along the way. General Curtis E. LeMay assures us that "Orientals" regard lives more "cheaply" than him, George S. Patton III says his "feeling for America just soared" for a "bloodygood bunch of killers," with newsreel footage of soldiers torching villages and kicking prisoners (bound while others are led away, bags over their heads, "for interrogation") sandwiched between soundbites. Among those siding with "despicable communist enemy," along with the filmmaker, are Jean Lacouture, Daniel Berrigan, Kenneth Landon, William R. Corson, Harrsion Salisbury, David Halberstam, and Sen. Thurston Morton, who contemplates the war machine and ponders, "How silly can you get?" A batch of American "observers" is flown in to prevent fraud at Saigon polls, so absurdity is scarcely in short supply here, to say nothing of Emperor Bao Dai, Madame Nhu, the self-immolating Buddhist monk, Ho Chi Minh as the Vietcong George Washington, distraught peasants and plenty of napalm detonations. The theme of de Antonio's tract, assembled with calm anger, is the "arrogance of power" of the U.S. colossus, dissected and questioned, the path carved for Hearts and Minds and Michael Moore down the decades, as locations change but the song remains the same. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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