Greetings, Soldiers

Aron Gaudet’s documentary is a combination of sure-fire lump-in-the-throat subjects: soldiers returning from war and elderly folks contemplating The End. Traces of Death is easier to watch. The film stars a trio of Maine retirees, who make themselves available, all hours, day and night, to greet, shake hands, and thank — in broad New English — troops returning stateside from Iraq via the Bangor Airport. The title refers to the idea that, by scheduling their lives as a welcoming committee, these men and woman give structure and meaning to existences lacking both. (Says one: “I don’t know what I’ll do when they all get home.”) It’s the stuff of a fine short on what any Bowling Alone reader knows is the last generation of civic-minded civilians, but Gaudet has a hard time extending his material to feature length. I came to best like Bill Knight, World War II vet and, at 87, the oldest by over a decade. His widower’s approach to housekeeping gives his home, a chaos of moldering collections and scavenging cats, definite visual flair, and he holds up well under vulture-like close-ups. Asked if he fears dying alone: “It’s nothing to get excited about.”
Wednesdays-Sundays; Sun., Oct. 18, 1:45 p.m. Starts: Oct. 9. Continues through Oct. 18, 2009
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Nick Pinkerton
Contact: Nick Pinkerton