AFI 100: The Bridge On the River Kwai & Nashville

Though The TV Show That Shall Remain Unnamed threatened to derail it for a few weeks, the AFI 100 Project continues apace.

The Bridge On the River Kwai: Ah man, this movie has everything: war and valor and girls and adventure and crazy plans and Obi Wan Kenobi. I thought it was good-but-not-great until the midway point, when our plucky band of heroes bifurcates into two groups, who spend the remainder of the film striving for diametrically opposed goals (one wants to build the titular bridge, the other endeavors to blow the mofo up). Modern Hollywood could never make a movie like Kwai, one in which the audience has absolutely no idea who the hell to root for. I had my doubts that any ending could live up to the fantastic premise, and was pleasantly surprised when they pulled it off. Hornswoggling myself into watching movies like this is why I started the AFI 100 Project in the first place. 9/10.

Nashville: I’m a big fan of a number of Robert Altman movies (Short Cuts and The Player foremost among them), and always defended the director against accusation that his films were unnecessarily long, rambling, and as uneven as the horizon of a Lunar Lander game. And do you know why I stuck up for Altman? Because I’d never seen Nashville. Now, having done so … yeah, okay, I guess I can see their point. In the hands of a good film editor, Nashville could have been a fantastic 100 minute flick, but the other 60 minutes is something of a drag. Protip: the point of having your actors ad lib their scenes to to keep the great, spontaneous, authentic moments and shitcan the rest, not to just spice the whole kit and caboodle into your already overlong opus. Not bad, and Altman’s genius is apparent throughout, but a pair of lopping shears short of greatness. 7/10

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10 comments.

  1. Ugh! I loathed Nashville. But then the story(ies) did nothing for me, and I couldn’t stomach the incessant country music. Good thing I have O.C. and Stiggs to fall back on to remind me of His greatness (oh, and few others).

  2. I’m so happy you liked “Bridge on the River Kwai.” You’re absolutely right; it’s way too morally complex a film to be made today. Nowadays, moral complexity is represented by the Josh Brolin character in “No Country for Old Men” which, not really.

    I’m also happy that you realize you would never have watched this film if you hadn’t started the AFI 100 project. If it leads you to discover films like this, and “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” films you might never have watched otherwise, then it was absolutely worth it.

  3. Bridge on the River Kwai is definitely one of my favorites. I saw it for the first time in a college film class. I finally got the reference in of those little jawa creatures in Spaceballs!

  4. Sorry, but I love Nashville. If you want to see what a terrible Altman film really looks like, try Health.

  5. Kwai never seemed morally ambiguous to me. Guinness just seemed wrong. Why would he cooperate?

  6. It took a second viewing of Kwai to not feel like it was so completely hackneyed. I really loved watching the end again recently. But I do have to agree with J-star. How is there any debate? Obi-wan was completely off his rocker towards the end – losing all sense of the reality of the situation.

    Nashville is one of those movies I will never completely “get”. While I love some of Altman’s work, that one was way too sprawling.

  7. Sometime in the early 90s I went to see “Nashville” at an art house with my girl friend. I did not like the film much (despite liking other Altman films), but she raved about it. “The costumes were so good…”, “…Shelley Duvall, Jeff Goldblum…” etc “…looked so young!”, “It was amazing!”. After awhile I could not take it anymore and let her filled her in, that the movie was made 20 years earlier. Looking back, it would have been a much more enjoyable film thinking it was a 90s film set in the 70s.

  8. I saw “Bridge on the River Kwai” for the first time pretty recently, about a year ago. I, too, enjoyed the Jawa/Dink-dink gag from Spaceballs, but I had seen a different parody of the same “Bridge” bit so I knew it was coming. (I did somehow see Spaceballs about 50 times before I managed to see “The Empire Strikes Back” all the way through, so the latter movie had me laughing inappropriately.)

    One of my favorite bits from the “Bridge” DVD was the story of how they orchestrated the climax involving the train in the bridge. (Spoiler: they succeed in building a bridge.) Apparently the technical aspects of that scene were a lot simple, and involved crewmen jumping out of harms’ way at the last second, and the scene accidentally got itself a dress rehearsal (followed by a train crash) because of the error of an endangered cameraman.

    PBS’s series “Secrets of the Dead”
    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/case_kwai/index.html
    gives an excellent on-scene history of the Thail-nd-Burma railway of which the historic Kwai bridge was a small part, and documents the engineering (possibly the Kwai bridge was built according to somewhat outdated engineering texts imported from the West) as well as the barest glimpse the almost unimaginable slavery of indigenous people and prisoners who were put to work building it.

    Not to say that “Bridge” is glamourizing that ugly episode of the war, although it certainly did Americanize it!

  9. I realize this is a movie review, but I’d like to chime in here and say that there is almost nothing which is as satisfying as making a bridge. They are big, helpful, tricky and fun. If you ever make a bridge, you will remember it for the rest of your life.

  10. My favorite little tidbit about “Bridge on the River Kwai” is its connection to…wait for it…”Planet of the Apes!”

    And what is the connection?

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    Both films are based on books by Pierre Boulle.

    (Not that I know much about Boulle; I just think it’s amusing to know that the same guy wrote both. Hmmm…what would’ve happened if the casting had been switched? Charlton Heston trading roles with Alec Guinness! The mind reels.)