Oswald's Ghost

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This review was written for the theatrical release of "Oswald's Ghost." 

Seventh Art Releasing

At once fascinating and frustrating, Robert Stone's documentary about the assassination of JFK never really decides whether it wants to concentrate on providing information or sociological analysis, with the result that it fails to fully satisfy on either level.

But ultimately its wealth of archival footage (much of which is unfamiliar) and insightful interviews with knowledgeable sources make "Oswald's Ghost" a relentlessly gripping cinematic examination. Currently receiving a limited theatrical release, it is scheduled to air early next year on PBS.

At first the film seems like it will concentrate entirely on its title subject's life and motives. But ultimately we learn less about Oswald than on the ramifications of his world-changing act. Stone delves deeply into the aftermath of the assassination, from the coverage by the news media to the conspiracy theories that sprang up almost immediately.

Included are interviews with several of the best-selling authors who delved into such controversies -- including Mark Lane and Edward J. Epstein -- as well as such figures as Tom Hayden, Gary Hart and the late Norman Mailer. They comment on the political and social shock waves that resulted.

The docu touches on several of the numerous theories about the case, including the oft-repeated conjectures about the Mafia, Castro, the Russians, the CIA, etc. A lengthy segment covers the crackpot notions of New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison, which became the focus of Oliver Stone's "JFK."

While the film never quite comes down on one side or the other, it seems to settle on the idea that Oswald acted alone, with even former staunch conspiracy theorists admitting that the fact that no solid evidence has emerged in the intervening decades would seem to make that case. Still, as the film informs us, even now about 70% of Americans believe that Oswald didn't act on his own.

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