Review of MASH (1970)

Moving picture, 116 minutes

Review applies to a Norwegian print which seemed a little censored.

Daily life at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital near the front lines of an American war in Asia. Gentle Japanese pop booms out of every speaker and one tent shows big-name Hollywood war movies. The doctors are fun-loving nihilists, very barely taking their gruesome work seriously and devoting their free time to golf, girls, alcohol, gambling and the humiliation of archists. Their warmly laid-back hedonism is almost transcendent, culminating in a surreal parody of the Last Supper and of Socrates’s suicide, to the tune of an original song: “Suicide Is Painless”.

A black comedy and an early big-budget criticism of the Vietnam war proxied by Korea. Korea is identifiable only because of superimposed text: the director apparently intended the setting to be ambiguous.

Probably the first big-budget Hollywood feature to use the word “fuck”. It’s an adaptation of a novel and was itself adapted as a much loved (less) progressive sitcom which went on longer than the Korean war. Deliberately unpolished and noisy, refusing to privilege its few known actors. It borders on racism and is clearly misogynistic.

References here: Apocalypse Now (1979).

moving picture fiction