"'If you remember, you're alive.'"
Oliver Stone on 'JFK Revisited.'
29 NOVEMBER—There are many things to say about Oliver Stone’s just-released new film, JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass. One of them is that Stone’s new work demolishes, thoroughly and conclusively, the official version of what happened on 22 November 1963. The standard case that Lee Harvey Oswald was the assassin and acted alone now stands as not only implausible. As Stone’s film establishes, it is impossible according to the forensics, the laws of physics, a lot of suppressed evidence, and what many witnesses saw—witnesses whose testimonies have been systematically buried for decades.
The truth, in short, remains to come out. But JFK Revisited, in all its extraordinarily well-researched and well-written detail, brings us very close to it.
As Stone explains in the exchange The Scrum now publishes, he was moved to make this film because of the impact of his original work on the Kennedy killing, JFK, a dramatization that came out in 1991. Congress subsequently passed the JFK Records Act and created the Assassination Records Review Board, which declassified a very considerable amount of documentation in the 1994–98 period. The new film explores that material, and to do so Stone made the decision—more political or historical than aesthetic—to return to the documentary form. “The new film is trying to put this information together in a coherent way for the public to understand,” he explains. “I wanted to set the record, as best I can from what I know, straight for the American people.”
JFK Revisited was much acclaimed when it was screened at the Cannes, Deauville, and Rome film festivals earlier this year. It is now available via Showtime, but here I will let Stone make another point worth contemplating at this point:
In the U.S., when it comes to the Kennedy killing I would say there’s close to a media blackout on any free thought. We didn’t get any cooperation from any American distribution outlet except Showtime…. No American entity was willing to finance this documentary. We had to go to England to get it financed….
Stone’s film reminded me of David Talbot’s The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the C.I.A., and the Rise of America’s Secret Government (HarperCollins, 2015), another scrupulous examination of the assassination. Stone and Talbot (who appears in the new film) run very close to stating that Allen Dulles, who Kennedy had fired as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency in 1961, was the puppet master behind the murder of our thirty-fifth president. But neither explicitly draws this conclusion. Here is Stone’s surprising reply when I asked him about this:
I’m in the area of what I think as opposed to what I know. I do think after all this time with it, and intuition, that it goes beyond Dulles. I think Dulles was a manager, probably the manager, because he had access to the agency, he was still a very powerful man, he was in Washington, he was buzzing around the whole scene….
Dulles, yes, but I think he had to get permission from higher-ups, somebody in, I think, the East Coast financial structure, maybe—you know the Rockefellers have done so much evil to this country I certainly could not put it beyond their capacity to have participated, because Kennedy was dangerous to business, and they knew it, and what they feared most was his reëlection in ’64…. That’s the way I see it. They knew if he got reëlected they would be dead in the water because he would have more power.
I have long considered the Kennedy assassination a moment of inestimable historical significance in that it foreclosed on a world we were close to bringing to life and led, most immediately via the Vietnam war, to the world of suffering and chaos we find out our windows. My final question in this exchange was one I had much looked forward to posing. It concerned the psychological damage inflicted by the Kennedy assassination, and subsequently the war in Vietnam. Had these events rendered us a lost, unmoored people? Stone, a Vietnam veteran and possessed of an acute, unflinching memory, was visibly moved as he struggled with his reply. It was in part:
All of these things come home to roost is what Malcolm X said. The karma… if you believe in a spiritual dimension I don’t see how we can go and do that and not suffer consequences…. Where is our humanity?... I don’t know where we’re going but it seems like our karma is so fucked, so fucked. Dante would write us into the last circle of hell. I hope for our country, I’m an optimist, that we can overcome this, but it’s frightening to think of the things we’ve done….
“We ought to count ourselves among the casualties in another sort of way,” I said when he had finished. Stone’s reply:
You’re only a casualty insofar as you forget, and if you remember you are alive, and you’re no longer a casualty because you’re carrying forth a fight, a crusade, not to forget.
■ ■ ■
The Scrum makes this webcast available to all viewers, no pay wall, because everyone should know of this superb film and everyone should see it. Knowing Stone’s work, all of it, is part of what it means to understand the world we live in. He’s that kind of filmmaker. And in this spirit JFK Revisited is not to be missed.