He Was a Nut.
Best war biography I’ve seen, it captures the complicated picture of Patton.
American Film Institutes Ranking: #89/100
Awards: Nominated for ten , winning seven for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Original Screenplay and others.
This particular DVD opened with the Francis Ford Coppola (who won an oscar for Best Original Screenplay). He was quick to talk about the trouble of depicting Patton — he had to balance pressure from the Far Right and Far Left political spectrums wanting to turn him into a caricature for their own purposes when he was much more than that.
Coppola found the right balance, bringing to light all the positive, negative, and crazy attributes that makes Patton worthy of his own eponymous film.
The opening scene is an amalgamation of every speech Patton ever gave, giving you a quick introduction into his character.
It quickly returns to the reality of war in North Africa where an American Corps has been easily defeated. Patton gets assigned as their leader and quickly turns around their fortunes. He begins to insert himself into politics of war, pushing to carry on more important missions. When the Allied leaders don’t agree, or want to demur to have other leaders get proper recognition, Patton decides to go rouge — he goes ahead with his own original plan and gets the glory of freeing strategically important locations in Sicily.
Patton becomes mired in political quagmires: he slaps a patient suffering from PTSD, calling him a coward; he offends other Allied members, particularly the Soviet Union; he makes insubordinate statements to the press. Because of this, he is removed from leadership, not finding a place within the D-Day invasion. Eventually he is recalled when necessary, and he once again performs brilliantly, performing a mission in a timeframe no one believed possible and being integral to the surrender of Germany.
The film ends with him reciting military history, a favorite subject of Patton, where he recalls that Roman conquerers upon returning home to celebrate had a Slave whisper their ears during victory parades “all glory is fleeting” to remind them of reality.
Patton the person is deeply interesting, having a multitude of behaviors and flair that make him a useful character study.
He’s deeply conservative and religious, but he believes in the idea of reincarnation and attests to being at every battle there ever was. He espouses classic virtues, such as discipline and a mind-over-matter attitude, but is just as quick to be histrionic and requires immense ego stroking to placate. Especially bright, he is the perfect warrior and was a much needed force on the Allied side. He was also completely out of place in a globalized post-war, never interested in making a transition to being an administrator.
The movie had to attack all of these angles, which I think it did so in fine fashion. Patton comes across as he must have to others in his time: erudite, bombastic, and a superb general.
It’s so hard to get a good grip on a mythical man. Patton did and said so many different things, you could prop him up to make him look however you wanted. This film was a refreshing depiction from a neutral space: we get to see a lot of different things about him.
While I’m still not sure what to believe, I do know he was one of a kind. Maybe his faith in reincarnation has been rewarded, and he’s already on his next great conquest.
Other People’s Take:
- Falcon at the Movies:“Patton (1970) is a movie more successful than any other character study I’ve seen.”
- Pete Lorie:“Patton starts big, with one of the most iconic visuals in cinema history. And it sustains that for the next three hours.”
- NY Movie Reviews: “Patton is certainly deserving of its Best Picture win, although you’re likely to find many who feel Robert Altman’s MASH is the one that held up the best over the years,”