When I read that Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland’s infamous 1972 movie F.T.A. (the second and third initials stand for “The Army”–two guesses as to what the first letter stands for) was being released onto DVD this year, I was tempted to write a review of it, but it seemed far too painful to have to actually watch the thing–merely viewing a clip online was enough. Altman was right–suicide is painless, at least when compared with that prospect.
It’s not the names involved; Fonda and Sutherland, when they’re in character, reading dialogue carefully crafted by Hollywood screenwriters, and given a talented director to gauge their performances, are both excellent and likable thespians. (Sutherland, a talented craftsman of an actor, despite his radical politics and the conspiracy theories they inspire, particularly so.)
But F.T.A. is the opposite of the traditional Hollywood programmer where the two actors are normally employed. It’s a documentary of the two actors in “Hey kids, let’s drop acid and put on a show” mode. Their tour played outside army bases in 1970 and 1971, even as President Nixon was withdrawing American troops from Vietnam. This was the height of Fonda’s “Hanoi Jane” phase, and the terminal nadir of the Woodstock-Altamont-Weathermen-Radical Chic nightmare years of the late 1960s, which, parenthetically, nearly killed the traditional movie industry. (And sad to say, culturally, the rest of the ’70s wouldn’t get much better.)
Fortunately, Christian Toto watches the film so you don’t have to–and his review is a far more enjoyable way to pass the time than what he had to endure to bring it to you.