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Oh! What a Lovely War

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Critics' Reviews

AMG Review
Craig Butler
Filmed at the height of the Vietnam conflict, Oh! What a Lovely War is a strange, one-of-a-kind musical film. It is not for all tastes and definitely has its share of flaws: It drags at times, the mixture of styles does not always work, it can be too ironic by half, the revue-like nature of the source material does not always translate well to the screen, the parade of impressive British talent becomes obtrusive, and it is occasionally obscure. But it also is undeniably powerful and features individual sequences that linger in the memory long after the movie is over. Among these are the image of a toy merry-go-round with toy figures which becomes a live merry-go-round with live soldiers and then becomes live soldiers in too-real combat, or the sequence in which a proper English lady convincing young boys to join up for the effort suddenly becomes a tart duping boys into coming up on-stage. And few cinematic moments make as bold a statement as the end sequence, in which a child at a picnic asks what his Daddy did in the war. There is no answer, only the camera deliberately pulling back to reveal first one cross amid some poppies, then another cross, and then more until the viewer sees that the picnic is taking place in a cemetery that eventually fills the screen. In such sequences, director Richard Attenborough displays an impressive mastery of touch. If the film is not a complete success, it does contain individual moments that are exceptional. ~ Craig Butler, Rovi
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