Dealey Plaza. The grassy knoll. The Texas Book Depository. The approaching motorcade. The blood-spattered pink suit.
Is there any event in American history that has such unique signifiers attached to it as the one associated with Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963? The words and images of the Kennedy assassination linger on, as essential props and catchphrases of one of American history's most enduring mysteries. The event has long since ceased to be a personal or political catastrophe. It's now an essential part of the American narrative, our home-grown tragedy in which the actors enact again and again the fateful events. It could be Aeschylus, it could be Shakespeare. Or, thanks to the likes of Don Delillo and James Ellroy, it's Libra and it's American Tabloid.
The latest foray into this genre is an audacious little film called Interview with the Assassin, which screens this weekend at Durham's Carolina Theatre. The film opens when a young documentary filmmaker named Ron Kobeleski responds to an interview request from a very odd older man named Walt Ohlinger. Walt, a former Marine, tells Ron that he once committed a crime. Now that he's dying of cancer, he wants to confess on camera.
"What did you do?"
"I was in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. Does that mean anything to you?"
Is he telling the truth? Is he mad? Ron wants to find out, and he embarks on a voyage of discovery with his cranky interview subject, a trip that will take them to Norfolk, Va., Washington, D.C., and of course, Dealey Plaza in Dallas.
In the best tradition of Blair Witch Project, director Neal Burger has exploited the conventions of digital video aesthetics and reality programming to produce an unsettling and harebrained movie.
Conspiracy buffs might want to check out this helpful list of all the convenient and untimely deaths of witnesses that occurred in the aftermath of Nov. 22, 1963: www.jfk-assassination.de/.