You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Cannes Film Review: ‘Of Men and War’

Laurent Becue-Renard's rigorous war-trauma documentary provides vital testimony.

With:
Fred Gusman, Harold Flowers, Julie Dunnigan. (English dialogue)

 

The devastating toll of post-traumatic stress disorder inflicted by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on U.S. soldiers is vividly presented in “Of Men and War,” a slow-burn documentary from France’s Laurent Becue-Renard. Over a lengthy running time, veterans at the Pathway Home in California are observed venting their anger in group therapy sessions, where they are encouraged to reveal traumatic events from their years in combat, then grapple with feelings of guilt and self-loathing. Documentary film festivals and niche cable TV rep the best chances of further exposure for this affecting specialty item following a Cannes Special Screenings bow.

Becue-Renard, whose earlier feature doc “War-Wearied” (aka “Living Afterwards: Words of Women”) won the Peace Award at the 2001 Berlinale, presents his new film as the second installment of a proposed “Genealogy of Wrath” trilogy. Utilizing a strict fly-on-wall format, with no interviews or captioning, the unseen, unheard Frenchman lets his material do the talking, gradually revealing the rhythms and processes of the residential therapy center. Located in pleasant Yountville in Napa Valley, Calif., Pathway was founded in 2008 by Fred Gusman, who pioneered new treatment programs for Vietnam vets in the late 1970s.

The film’s rigorous approach will appeal to documentary purists while challenging more general audiences who might care to know more about Pathway, Gusman and his philosophy. Details including where and when each veteran served, military division, name, marital status and treatment history emerge in haphazard fashion, gradually allowing attentive viewers some meaningful access to the individual subjects.

In the early running, Becue-Renard is in no hurry to endear the audience to the men interviewed, whose seething resentments and emotional unavailability might seem indistinguishable from narcissism. But as they tell their stories  innocent children run down, faces of unarmed civilians shot off, best friends accidentally slain  and the therapy begins to break through the macho hostility, engagement accrues. Rejecting a linear chronology, the filmmaker saves the most impactful material for the final stretch, often involving medical personnel who are most consistently exposed to grisly carnage.

Becue-Renard’s approach to filming involved spending an initial five months of quiet observation building trust with the staff and residents, then nine months of shooting, returning over a further four-year period to catch up with the veterans now returned to civilian life. Expeditions including mountain hikes, the beach, a patriotic parade and a bowling alley provide necessary pauses from the therapy sessions, while also lending the film some handy visual contrasts. Photography and sound are overall crisp; score, virtually non-existent.

Cannes Film Review: 'Of Men and War'

Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Special Screenings), May 20, 2014. Running time: 142 MIN.  

 

Production: (France-Switzerland) A Why Not (in France) release of an Alice Films presentation in association with Louise Prods. and Radio Television Suisse. (International sales: Wild Bunch, Paris.) Produced by Laurent Becue-Renard. Co-producers, Heinz Dill, Elisabeth Garbar.

Crew: Directed, written by Laurent Becue-Renard. Camera (color, HD), Camille Cottagnoud; editors, Isidore Bethel, Sophie Brunet, Charlotte Boigeol; music, Kudsi Erguner; sound, Fanny Weinzaepflen; sound designer, Cyril Becue; associate producers, Thierry Garrel, Bethel; assistant directors, Marc Benda, Emmanuel Dayan.

With: Fred Gusman, Harold Flowers, Julie Dunnigan. (English dialogue)

 

More Film

  • 'Maze Runner: The Death Cure' Tops

    'Maze Runner: The Death Cure' Dominates Social Media Buzz Ahead of Opening

    The devastating toll of post-traumatic stress disorder inflicted by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on U.S. soldiers is vividly presented in “Of Men and War,” a slow-burn documentary from France’s Laurent Becue-Renard. Over a lengthy running time, veterans at the Pathway Home in California are observed venting their anger in group therapy sessions, where they […]

  • John Cho Debra Messing Aneesh Chaganty

    John Cho Lauds Asian-American Casting in New Film ‘Search’

    The devastating toll of post-traumatic stress disorder inflicted by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on U.S. soldiers is vividly presented in “Of Men and War,” a slow-burn documentary from France’s Laurent Becue-Renard. Over a lengthy running time, veterans at the Pathway Home in California are observed venting their anger in group therapy sessions, where they […]

  • Joan Jett Sundance

    Joan Jett: Rock Music 'Will Never Be Dead' (Watch)

    The devastating toll of post-traumatic stress disorder inflicted by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on U.S. soldiers is vividly presented in “Of Men and War,” a slow-burn documentary from France’s Laurent Becue-Renard. Over a lengthy running time, veterans at the Pathway Home in California are observed venting their anger in group therapy sessions, where they […]

  • Come Sunday

    Sundance Film Review: 'Come Sunday'

    The devastating toll of post-traumatic stress disorder inflicted by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on U.S. soldiers is vividly presented in “Of Men and War,” a slow-burn documentary from France’s Laurent Becue-Renard. Over a lengthy running time, veterans at the Pathway Home in California are observed venting their anger in group therapy sessions, where they […]

  • Edward James Olmos Sons of Anarchy

    David Strathairn to Star in Edward James Olmos' 'The Devil Has a Name' (EXCLUSIVE)

    The devastating toll of post-traumatic stress disorder inflicted by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on U.S. soldiers is vividly presented in “Of Men and War,” a slow-burn documentary from France’s Laurent Becue-Renard. Over a lengthy running time, veterans at the Pathway Home in California are observed venting their anger in group therapy sessions, where they […]

  • Like Me

    Film Review: ‘Like Me’

    The devastating toll of post-traumatic stress disorder inflicted by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on U.S. soldiers is vividly presented in “Of Men and War,” a slow-burn documentary from France’s Laurent Becue-Renard. Over a lengthy running time, veterans at the Pathway Home in California are observed venting their anger in group therapy sessions, where they […]

  • Fred Berger, producer of "La La

    After Oscars Mishap, PricewaterhouseCoopers Tightens Envelope Procedures

    The devastating toll of post-traumatic stress disorder inflicted by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on U.S. soldiers is vividly presented in “Of Men and War,” a slow-burn documentary from France’s Laurent Becue-Renard. Over a lengthy running time, veterans at the Pathway Home in California are observed venting their anger in group therapy sessions, where they […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content