The Atomic Cafe may not have narration, but it certainly doesn't lack commentary. The film shows its makers' views in its meticulously planned footage sequences that combine terrible radiation burn
s with official statements
that there were no such things, juxtapose illusion
s with stark reality and make clear the absurdity of nuclear weapons
that turned Dr. Strangelove
from a drama
into a satire
. The medium becomes the message
. This approach has drawn both wild praise ("Atomic Cafe reaches the level of poetry"
- Fred Glass) and some marvellous slams ("The film reeks of the smugness of film brats trying to be smart about the past"
- I.C. Jarvie; "There is nothing to temper the final impact of decadent cynicism"
- Boyle D.) Certainly it's worth keeping in mind that you're getting the picture the film-makers want you to, essentially being told what to feel
It's an odd work, one I'd recommend for those interested in history, propaganda, weird movie tricks or, like me, apparently everything.
One scene in particular left a deep impression in me: US soldiers inexplicably close to an above-ground nuclear test duck in trenches to ride out the blast wave, then against all reason and forcing me to suppress an urge to shout out and warn them, get out and start walking towards the expanding mushroom cloud. The entire pointlessness and lunacy suddenly becomes so plain it's hard to believe the sight, though while this is somewhat tangential from the hilarious stupidity of Man there's another reason. I've seen atomic explosions intermittingly through my whole life, but always as giants among giants, poking out of clouds or vaporizing fictional metropolises. This may be different for someone living in a country with mountains, but as the film showed ordinary folks five to six feet tall against a mushroom cloud, it suddenly registered how ridiculously out of scale it was, and with a holy green camel-eating frog of Egypt that thing's HUGE! my already shocked self was left incapable of even thinking of a better expletive.
Source of quotations: http://www.publicshelter.com/main/tacrev.html