Robert Aldrich was surely one of the first American film-makers who since the mid 1950s (who remembers the Copernican revolution heralded by Vera Cruz and Kiss Me Deadly?) accomplished the transition from Hollywood classicism to its critical modernity, injecting into each of his projects an immense energy and degree of brutality that was to impassion both film noir and western, both crime thriller and war film, his genre of choice.
With 30 films over a career spanning 48 years, Aldrich, an independent maverick rebelling against the fetters of Hollywood tradition, has produced a “cinema of crisis”, highlighting the spectacularisation of the balance of power (The Longest Yard, which he directed in 1974, is entirely in keeping with his pugnacious aesthetic) and violence of conflicts: indubitably his major stylistic trademark, the default outlet for an explosive energy that is impossible to contain. What was to be done with this suppressed violence that consumes his characters? How should it be channelled?
No surprise, then, that from 1956 onwards, Aldrich should find in the war film an ideal framework for delivering his vision of the world, one that was violent and disenchanted, fearfully perceptive and explosive. Be it a lieutenant discovering the cowardice and hypocrisy of his superiors (Attack!), a gang of criminals turned soldiers on a suicide mission into enemy territory (The Dirty Dozen, 1967, his greatest box-office success) or a British patrol charged in 1942 with neutralising a Japanese post headed by a dispassionate lieutenant (Too Late the Hero, 1970), Aldrich’s war films have astutely captured the reality of the world and mankind through the prism of conflict.
Aldrich’s relationship with war films was to conclude in 1977 with political thriller Twilight’s Last Gleaming, given over to the portrayal of a government scandal (what if the Vietnam War had been a knowingly organised massacre by the US administration?), a masterpiece of melancholy and noir that was butchered at the time of its cinema release, but whose uncut version will be presented at the festival.