The JFK files have been opened. Not the intelligence material declared classified in the early ’60s — that stuff’s tied up in wrangling between Congress and the Justice Department. But in about two weeks, bookstores will uncrate Oliver Stone’s own exhaustive study, JFK: The Book of the Film. The 500-plus-page tome contains the JFK screenplay by Stone and Zachary Sklar, annotated to detail which bits of fact and speculation were taken from where, plus a lengthy selection of JFK-inspired articles, updated right through April.
Stone’s 340 footnotes are so hyperbolic and one-sided, they end up undermining JFK‘s wilder suppositions. Yet since the script in The Book often diverges from the finished movie (missing on-the-set improvisations and editing changes, like all shooting scripts), it’s a lesson in craft to watch JFK on videocassette while reading along, charting what got cut, softened, and rethought. Entire paragraphs of righteous narration about covert Cuban operations were dropped from the opening montage, for instance, and the script’s original finale, built around a sweepingly paranoid speech by X (Donald Sutherland), was folded into an earlier X scene. Only rabid cinephiles will feel equal to plowing through every last bit of evidence, but even a cursory examination of The Book proves what a master Stone is at transforming hollow dogma into compelling drama.