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The Return of Jane Fonda’s long-M.I.A. “F.T.A.”

The Return of Jane Fonda’s long-M.I.A. “F.T.A.” (photo)

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By 1971, America’s involvement in Vietnam had steamrolled onward in full combat-&-bombing mode for six solid years, just about as long as the U.S. has currently been occupying Iraq. They’re different wars, but similar enough to make the evidence presented in the long-censored, long-buried, long-bootlegged film “F.T.A.” (1972) all the more astonishing: it was then, more than midway through the first Nixon term, that a couple of full-on movie stars (Donald Sutherland and Jane Fonda) helped gather together a band of lefty anti-war musicians, actors and activists, and devised a cheesy vaudeville show to act as counterpoint to the Bob Hope pro-war paradigm. And then they toured, but not at home for other activists or mere American voters, but on or around military bases, for G.I.s, beginning at Fort Bragg (which wasn’t filmed) and ending up bouncing around the Pacific Rim from one installation to another. The delighted enlisted men showed up by the thousands, having been rebelling themselves in huge numbers by then, and it’s their catchphrase “Fuck The Army” that the show adopted as its own. The resulting rough-hewn documentary opened for a single week in 1972 and then was suddenly pulled (director Francine Parker thinks after a White House phone call was made to the distributor), never to be legally seen again, until now.

That was a different world, certainly; our contemporary Hollywood celebrities commit themselves, safely, to grieving over Darfur, but imagine, if you can, Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon (try and find younger stars, as Fonda was then) risking their careers by singing risible ditties about military injustice and genocide to grunts at bases in Baghdad and Kuwait. “F.T.A.” is actually, all on its own, barely a movie; the skits are self-consciously awful, the songs worse (except perhaps when balladeer Len Chandler belts out a Vietnamese folk song on his guitar, to the crowd’s approval), and the speeches are mostly tailored to the specific concerns of the enlisted men, including officer racism and the injustice of huge U.S. bases in the Philippines and on Okinawa being little more than massive chunks of real estate stolen from the natives. (The budget spent on the project was so minimal that the film’s poster, reproduced on the DVD, looks like it used ad art from the upcoming Fonda-Sutherland comedy “Steelyard Blues.”)

But who cares? It’s a document of disarming anti-authoritarian nerve, and the spirit of the thing is infectious and energizing, for as much of what the performers do as the grunts, who were sick of delivering bombs and laying waste, and were openly thankful for the opportunity to say so on camera. The film is, in any case, remarkable for how little it is known and how rarely it’s been seen, shepherded around only in illegal video dupes like Samizdat, a minor footnote to the American-Vietnam era that’s only gained volume because of its suppression. (Another Fonda-sponsored documentary from ’72, “Winter Soldier,” also enjoyed a semi-official disappearance.) It’s hard, too, not to sympathize with Fonda here, all young and fiery and absolutely correct, even as a play (“33 Variations”) she’s acting in today, at the age of 72, gets picketed by the Not Fonda Jane kvetchers. (In real terms — let’s be honest — her appearance on Hanoi Radio did not burn a single village or kill a single child.) Triple-billed with, say, Godard’s “Letter to Jane” and Ashby’s “Coming Home,” “F.T.A.” becomes a long-lost integer in the equation of a fascinating and resonant public woman, quite possibly the most heroic American celebrity since studio stars enlisted for combat during WWII.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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