Shot by both sides

Attacked by the US press for myriad historical inconsistencies. Oliver Stone’s pronouncement on the Kennedy assassination,JFK, is the conspiracy movie to end them all. Trevor Johnston reports.

After Kevin (‘ostner in Dances ll'r’rlr Wolves. it‘s Kevin (‘ostner in Dances With Facts. Oliver Stone’s casting of big Kev as crusading attorney Jim Garrison has had the pundits falling over themselves to come up with witty putdowns of JI’K's alleged inaccuracies. part of a general wave of US criticism which ironically serves to further fuel the writer-director‘s long held theory ofan establishment cover-up. ‘\\'ith.ll-‘I\' we are attempting to film the true inner meaning ofthe Dallas labyrinth.’ wrote Stone in a recent article for the American movie magazine. Premiere. ’the mythical and spiritual dimension of Kennedy‘s murder. to help us understand why the shots in Dealy Plaza still continue to reverberate in our nightmares.‘ Yet in reaching for this ‘inner meaning'. his wayward method with the details at hand engenders a nagging suspicion that undercuts the film‘s gut feeling of rightness.

The manner in which JFK blends lactwith fiction, however, while it makestor engrossing and dramatically potent

cinema, is all too open to question bythe

film’s detractors.

The core of Stone's film is the 1967 civil case mounted by New ( )rleans DA .lim (iarrison. in which the man accused of involvement in the assassination. entrepreneur (‘lay Shaw ('l'ommy Lee Jones). was merely the point ofentry to an alleged (‘l A-controlled conspiracy which engineered the shooting and created a suitable scapegoat in Lee I larvey ()swald. Although the jury‘s ‘not guilty” \ erdict showed that they were finally uneom inced of the link. Garrison’s

discrediting of the so-called ‘magic bullet' theorv—

that one Iig-zagging shot made a total of seven wounds in the bodies of Kennedy and Texas

(iov ernor John ('onnally threw severe doubt on the prey ious official conclusions.

(iarrison‘s indication that ()swald. aiming from the book depository behind the path ofthe Kennedy motorcade. was not the only gunman. and that the fatal bullet probably came from another assailant firing from the grassy knoll. completely undermined the Warren (‘ommission


JFK: Stone wants us to ‘understand whythe shots in Dealy Plaza still continue to reverberate in our nightmares.‘ l

findings which enshrined ()swald as a mad killer working alone. Yet if the US government‘s major inquiry appears to have been a whitewash. then what else has been covered up'.’ It's significant. for instance. that much ofthe relevant testimony remains locked away on grounds of ‘national security".

In this light. some of Stone's accusations are echoed by the declaration of the 1976—1979 House Select Committee on Assassination that a grassy knoll shot was 95 per cent probable. and indeed a recent Gallup poll found that 73 per cent of Americans believe there was a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy. The manner in which JFK blends fact with fiction. however. while it makes for engrossing and dramatically potent cinema. is all too open to question by the film’s detractors. Stone willingly admits that not all the evidence (‘ostner uses in court was actually dredged tip bv the real-life Garrison and that one of the film's key witnesses. male hustler Willie O'Keeffe (Kevin . Bacon). is a composite ofseveral different actual

film's bravura collage though. is the mysterious high-ranking army officer. commandineg played by Donald Sutherland. l le delivers the keynote speech ‘proving’ that the assassination was nothing less than a coup d'etat mounted by the military top brass. who worked in cahoots with the power base of top industrialists to ensure the profitable continuation of the Vietnam war that Kennedy was then on the point ofde-escalating.

The problem here is that. while the material is not perhaps totally beyond the realms of possibility. identifying this character simply as ‘X’ and picturing a meeting with (iarrison that takes place very deliberately within sight of the Washington monument surely undermines the ' credibilityofthe message being conveyed. It‘s not that it‘s difficult toswallow . il's inst that it's too easy not to swallow. It’s fine for Stone to muck around with the facts while claiming the moral high ground. but ifan opposing argument were to be constructed in a similarly eay alier fashion. you can be sure our ()llie would be the first to squaw k to high heaven about it.

This caveat asideJ/“K succeeds in bringing together the areas ofdoubt which still hang over the events of22 November 1%}. We may not edge any closer to the answers until the gm'ernment vaults are opened sometime during the next century. but it's difficult to exit after three hours of densely constructed evidence without wondering exactly who fired the killer bullet. ()r asking just what was ()swald’s connection to the intelligence community? ()r pondering why the President's security arrangements seemed so pitifully inadequate on the fateful day'.’

One thing remains certain. With the film of Ruby (one ofStone‘s sketchier characters) due for an American release soon and Phil .S'ruie of'Uruee Joanou working on a movie adaptation of Don DeI-illo‘s brilliant Kennedy conspiracy novel Libra. these are questions that may be with us for another while yet.

JFK opens across Scotland on Friday 24 J anuury.

individuals. The most atitlaciotis component of the l


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