Tag Archives: World War II

Bon Anniversaire, Cillian Murphy

C’est aujourd’hui, il y avait 39 ans, l’acteur Cillian Murphy etait né.

Happy Birthday, Cillian Murphy.  Today, 39 years ago he was born.

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I watched Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015) on Friday and liked it so much that I had thought about watching it again today.  But, as many intentions, thoughts, tentative plans go (even the ones made with and by oneself), things did not go as anticipated today.  See, over the weekend, I came across this ArtsAtl article on an exhibition at the Atlanta History CenterFilming The Camps – John Ford, Samuel Fuller, George Stevens: From Hollywood to Nuremberg.

I made an impromptu visit there today because I wanted to see this exhibit.  As a high-schooler during the Clinton administration, my memories of learning about World War II were filled to the brim with why Pearl Harbor was a turning point for the Americans’ participation, how the Russian winter was important in the Germans’ defeat, and that it was beyond comprehension that so much inhumanity was systematically implemented at the behest of a man whose fatherland encompassed the Black Forest and parts of the Danube, Rhine, and Elbe Rivers.  Summaries and discussions of the war’s end and the liberating of the concentration camps necessarily included the mentioning of newsreel footage and photography of what the Allied troops had seen.

Were there names? More information on exactly who was taking the photographs, filming the state of things?  Nope.  I suppose understandably, high school — even at an AP US history level — curriculum was more concerned in getting us from the Thirteen Original colonies to the falling of the Berlin Wall.  I never wondered who were these men either; I had visualized them in my mind more as the machinery of recording rather than the operators of that machinery.  There were brief comments about the use of propaganda, but frankly, I do not recall anything much else.  It wasn’t until undergraduate studies when I took a class called History & Texts, which focused on how films of both Allied and Axis countries shaped the public’s perceptions of the war.  And ahhh, I learned about the Office of War Information.

Thus, when I read about this exhibit at the Atlanta History Center (which will be on display through early November), I decided that I absolutely had to see it.  Hollywood filmmakers John Ford, George Stevens, and Samuel Fuller* were among those whose responsibility it was to bring home images of what was left of thousands and thousands of people forcibly removed from their homes.  Filming the Camps is on the lower level of the history center.  There are photographs, video installations, memos, and charts.  I had expected to feel a residue-like numbness or melancholy as I passed each display case.  But, I didn’t..at least not until I reached the very end where there were two questions pasted on the wall and a spattering of post-it notes affixed there.  The first question was why atrocities should be documented, the second asked for one word to describe one’s experience wandering through the exhibit.  Among the comments on the first question, two stood out to me.  One was so that we’d never forget and the other was so that there would be proof that they happened.

I scribbled down: So that you’ll always remember where you’ve been and that you never want to be there again.  So you’ll know what you’re capable of and that you’ll vow to your soul never to unleash it again.

I then took a walk around the grounds and went to the Smith Family Farm. Moments after I stepped into one of rooms in the Tullie Smith House, a weight of sadness pressed against my chest.  Even though the house was literally moved to the backyard of the history center, I felt as if much heartbreak and heartache had gone on in that room.  Like…two people bid each other adieu and never saw one another again.  Or one person uttered some hateful words to another and that was the last words they’d ever exchange. C’etait etrange.

There were goats.

And then I did some more walking.

I also touched a tree with a large trunk, and as I did, I’m certain it passed to me some kind of knowing.  Of other people’s pain, moroseness, mindfulness, and impermanence.

* Samuel Fuller actually hadn’t started making films when he was at Dachau. His first would be no doubt the most sobering he’d ever imagined.

Pic creds: google image search and yours truly

Off Topic: Spike Lee on the war film

If Spike Lee wants to make a movie set during World War II, why not?

I watched and reviewed Miracle at St. Anna (200eight) for Filmthreat. Here’s an excerpt:

When viewing the work of an auteur filmmaker, there’s an automatic, perhaps unconscious, compulsion to sift through the conversations, sights, and sounds of the film for elements that conform to or contradict the qualities associated with the filmmaker. When Spike Lee became a household name in the 1990s with “Do The Right Thing“, “Jungle Fever,” and “Get On the Bus;” and then continued into the 21st century with “The 25th Hour” and “When The Levees Broke,” his cinema was considered one of social commentary manifested through cynical and satirical characters.

“Miracle at St. Anna” initially poses a challenge for identifying signature traits of his style not only because it’s a war film (the genre formula is likely to steer plot development), but also because it is based on a book. If the humorous dialogue cannot be solely credited to Lee due to the screenplay and the actors’ performances, Lee nonetheless leaves his creative imprints throughout the film. His social commentary comes across via the juxtaposition of images and the use of extreme close-ups. For example, a short clip from the World War II film “The Longest Day” (1962), starring John Wayne, opens the film. As Hector Negron watches these images on his TV, he laments under his breath that he “fought for this country too.” Immediately, the issue of visibility and representation is introduced: “Miracle at St. Anna” will be a story about voices that need to be heard and experiences that need to be known.

Other themes, such as the complexities of warfare and of humanity, are addressed briefly but poignantly in the scenes that reveal the protagonists’ conflict of interests and scenes that feature Captain Eichholz (Christian Berkel), a Nazi who doesn’t buy into the ideology of the Führer but still has a job to do. Eichholz is not a sympathetic character; instead, he is a reminder that allegiances and betrayals in times of war are much grayer than they are black-and-white.

Click here to read the entire review.

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When I first saw previews for the film, I knew I was going to watch it. I like Derek Luke as an actor and was curious to see where the Spike Lee-ness would be in the film. After looking up more information on the film and realizing that James McBride wrote the source material and the adapted screenplay, I volunteered to review it. I read his book The Color of Water in my AP Psych class when I was a senior in high school.

I picked up the Miracle at St. Anna book after I watched the movie.

The book includes a disclaimer after the dedication page informing the reader that “this book is a work of fiction inspired by real events and real people. It draws upon the individual and collective experiences of black soldiers who served in the Serchio Valley and Aquane Alps of Italy during World War II.” McBride took “certain liberties with names, places, and geography, but what follows is real. It happens a thousand times in a thousand places to a thousand people. Yet we still manage to love one another, despite our best efforts to the contrary.”

The Movie Tie-In version (cover same as the poster).

The Non Movie Tie-In version.

Read more about the production of the film in this LA Times piece here.

Click here for more pictures.

Click here for an interview with the four main actors.

Click here more information on The Longest Day (1962).

A screencap from production notes.