18 hours in vietnam

Thom02_3918_01David Thomson at the LRB:

The Vietnam War, a film made by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, comes in ten parts, with beginnings, middles and end credits; and lasts 18 hours altogether, which some may feel is a lot to ask of busy, anxious wrecks who have their own troubles to patrol. Not that 18 hours on your couch, attending to war, is really so much if you need courage and history in your life. The film took ten years to make, at a cost of $30 million. That’s a lot of money by documentary standards, but it was done in the Burns tradition: there was a seeding deal with PBS, but the greater part of the money was raised by Burns himself, a visionary documenter of America’s past and a model businessman too. Even as he was launching the Vietnam series, he was working on another show, about country music.

The Vietnam War starts at the end of the Second World War, with the Japanese finished in Indochina, the uneasy resumption of French control, and their attempts to ignore the pressures of nationalism and the push for independence. And you follow it through to the end of the era called ‘Vietnam’, knowing that that time did not end in 1975, but will last as long as the walking wounded trudge on, and for as long as there is anyone left who understands the remark, made in the film, that ‘Vietnam drove a stake in the heart of this country’ – and knows that the country spoken of here is not Vietnam, despite its three million lost lives.

more here.