The Atomic Café: Collector's Edition Jayne Loader, Kevin Rafferty and Pierce Rafferty

The Atomic Café: Collector's Edition Jayne Loader, Kevin Rafferty and Pierce Rafferty
The Atomic Cafe isn't a conventional documentary. Utilizing a wealth of archival footage, the film navigates the history of the atom bomb without conventional aides such as narration or talking head interviews. Instead, the film relies entirely on television footage, military training films and government propaganda from the '40s and '50s. Directors Jayne Loader, Kevin Rafferty and Pierce Rafferty employ musical accompaniment and suggestive edits to create a story that, removed from its context, could function as an absurd work of fiction. Beginning with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, The Atomic Cafe paces itself fairly predictably, following the post-WWII United States during the beginning of the cold war and the red scare that accompanied it. The style of the film consistently mirrors the tone of the events it chronicles - for this early portion, moments are clear cut yet ominous. Then there is a sudden shift in tone, both cinematically and culturally - the combination of citizens' pride in and fear of the bomb culminates in a bizarre social fetish. The film jumps from clip to clip, capturing the frenzy of the time: the infamous "duck and cover" educational film, the rise of home bomb shelters and popular culture's appropriation of the bomb. From "Atomic" cocktails to chic HAZMAT suits to the titular cafe, everyone seemed to be excited by the bomb in some respect. While the film purports to be a documentary of the atomic age, the story concludes in an apocalyptic bombing that never really happened. It's more a document of an imagined disaster and how the then relatively new medium of film could embody the hysteria of a nation. At times grotesquely funny, at others unrelentingly frightening, The Atomic Cafe is still a relevant examination of malevolent ignorance. For those that criticize the bias of the editing, the two-disc collector's edition DVD comes with eight full-length propaganda films, so you can bask in their un-tampered ridiculousness. (Docudrama)