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JFK Revisited: Oliver Stone and the New JFK Fact Pattern

JFK Revisited: Oliver Stone and the New JFK Fact Pattern

When Oliver Stone first ambles through Dealey Plaza in Dallas in the opening frames his new documentary JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass, I couldn’t help but think the man is a soldier. Rumpled, restless, and searching, the 75-year old director looks around the scene of the murder of President John F. Kennedy with the gaze of a combatant and a survivor.

Stone is the dogged veteran of a culture war that has been going on for thirty years since the release of his 1991 Oscar-winning feature film, JFK, a struggle to define American history that ripples through the culture with every new development in the ever-evolving JFK story. He is also a Vietnam veteran who did a dangerous tour of combat duty, as depicted his 1987 film Platoon. The man risked his life for his country, I thought, a sacrifice that few of his harshest critics have ever made.

When I shared that thought with Stone in a telephone interview, he demurred. “Serving as a soldier doesn’t give me any better political insights than someone who did not,” he insisted, with the modesty that has recurred in our occasional conversations over the years. As film critic Ann Hornaday observed in a recent Washington Post piece that was actually fair to the Oscar-winning director. “To spend time with Oliver Stone is to enter a different kind of looking glass,” Hornaday wrote, “A man often caricatured as wild-eyed provocateur is thoughtful, easygoing and generous even at his most contrarian.”

Knowing Stone personally, I can say the canard that he is a fabulist or a fanatic is unfounded and unfair. In person, he is thoughtful, playfully aggressive, and occasionally insecure. The word “encyclopedic” does not do justice to his knowledge of American history or the cinema or politics…

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