To the editors:

I have to laugh at Jonathan Rosenbaum’s self-righteous, melodramatic, even hypocritical review of Cliffhanger [June 11].

I can sympathize with being anti-film violence; many people can and are (although I don’t really care myself). But in summing up, in both his full-length and capsule reviews of the film, he states that the film is “so barbaric that the civilization that produced it probably doesn’t deserve to survive, much less prevail.”

Such sophomoric earnestness. First, Jonathan as judge and jury deciding on the survival of Western civilization is a notion so barbaric, I can only beg: Mercy, Jonathan, spare us!!

Spare us, that is, your “ideas” on who should or shouldn’t survive, and stick to reviewing films. As for the evil nature of violent films, your simplistic viewpoint dilutes your thesis. There is a universe of difference between the vicarious thrill of watching what is thoroughly understood to be fake violence and cheering for the genuine article. (There may be those few barnyard animals who can’t tell the difference, and who want to practice for real what they see onscreen; they are an insignificant minority, and are completely beside the point.) The point is that the people who gawk and cheer do so for a sense of retribution and poetic justice, knowing full well it’s all in fun. These very same people would be struck dumb with horror if they knew this film were a covertly captured record of actual barbarism, because they are not barbarians; only the tiniest portion of our society fits that description. Be thankful that normal people don’t cheer when they witness real violence, Jonathan; then you’d have something to whine about.

Finally, your remark in the capsule review that the Persian gulf war was “savagery . . . celebrated . . . shamelessly . . . disgustingly” is preposterous, defaming your country, and flying in the face of about 90 percent of the nation at the time. My advice, again, is to stick to the knitting: Keep your politics out of your reviews; it’ll destroy your credibility.

David M. Marks


Jonathan Rosenbaum replies:

The actual phrase that David Marks finds preposterous is, “except for our recent turkey shoots in Panama and the Persian Gulf, savagery is seldom celebrated as shamelessly or as disgustingly.” Since he pointedly leaves out Panama, I take heart in the possibility that he doesn’t regard the wholesale slaughter of thousands of innocent Panamanian women and children as an innocent, good-natured turkey shoot–unlike, apparently, the slaughter of thousands of innocent Iraqi women and children. I guess one way it becomes possible to celebrate and cheer such events is to keep politics out of movie reviews–which helps to explain how those CNN movies Operation Desert Storm and War in the Gulf could offer some Americans so much pleasurable entertainment without their fun being spoiled. “Be thankful that normal people don’t cheer when they witness real violence,” says David Marks. Does that mean that the fall of “smart bombs” on Iraq wasn’t real violence, or does it mean, rather, that the people I saw cheering them weren’t normal?