28 March 2011

I Wish That Just Once I Could Say: "According to My Contacts in the Underground" Anyway, Herein is a Weather Report, Audience Complaints, and Discussion of Another World War II Movie

We've had a lot of rain here lately. Unlike most everyone else, I've loved every drop. I just now enjoyed some of the fruits of all that precipitation. I sat in the backyard under a clean blue sky. The ground was still damp from all the rain and the ground was a lustrous green. In spots bare of grass there was moss. Birds sang happily and a squirrel cavorted about. The air was warm and felt soft and caressing. I alternately enjoyed my surrounding and read Christopher Isherwood's Lion and Shadows, an autobiography as novel or novel as autobiography, I forget which.

This was time too perfect. So somewhere on our block a car alarm went off. Wonderful invention the car alarm. I wonder what the ratio is to the number of times they go off inadvertently to the number of times they prevent auto thefts. Anyway it was time for me to come in and write something. One occasionally just feels a strong urge to put pen to paper or rather to put finger to keyboard. So here we are....

Yesterday I saw Winter in Wartime (2008) a highly acclaimed Dutch film just now being released in this country. I hadn't been in a theater in a couple of months and forget how different it is to watch a film in public as opposed to the comfort of one's own home. A gentleman sat behind who insisted upon digging treats out of a large paper bag. Judging from the cacophonous munching, he had brought homemade popcorn. To my right was a couple who intermittently dug through a plastic bag for their vitals. In front of me was someone struggling to open a candy wrapper. Further back there was a couple who loudly whispered a few times until finally someone shushed them.

None of these vexations afflict the home movie goer. Then again the screen is bigger....

I believe it was Brad Pitt who said that Quentin Tarantino had effectively killed of World War II movies with Inglourious Basterds (2009). He, of course, meant it as a compliment and testimony to the exclamation point that Basterds put on the genre.

In fairness Winter in Wartime was released before Basterds and it's safe to assume that WWII movies will continue to be released (books on the Nazis alone had their biggest year in 2010, a testament to the everlasting fascination we have with Third Reich). But surely there's less and less material to explore. I felt I'd seen most elements of Winter in Wartime several times before.

Based on true events (when it comes to WWII who needs to make anything up?) the story revolves around a male adolescent in occupied Holland in January of 1945. The war was all but lost but the Nazis did a lot of their killing in the war's waning months, just ask any Holocaust scholar.

Our young hero, Michiel, becomes involved with the rescue of a downed British flyer. Indeed, after a series of arrests he's the whole show until he finally enlists the aid of his older sister.

There is much daring do, near escapes, mean Nazis (they really were, you know) betrayals, tensions and yes of course, our hero coming of age. This was a much celebrated film in The Netherlands and that's understandable. it's a compelling tale well told. For me it was just all a bit too familiar.

As I've detailed here any number of times, particularly in this post from several years ago, which I followed up with this post a few months later, the Second World War is a never ending source of films. The scripts write themselves. There are ready-made heroes and villains and all manner of dramatic material replete with explosions, gunfire and blood.

At this point, with so many stories having been told, one really needs something new, mostly in the way of telling it. As Tarantino did. He had the wonderful audacity to create a separate reality. It's hard to see anyone daring to try that again. Then again Hollywood is positively teeming with people who make a fortune recycling really good ideas and turning them into rot. I'd never underestimate those bastards with two"a"s.

I've spent a lifetime watching WWII films and reading non-fiction books about the Nazis. I'll reiterate a point recently made on this blog that its instructive for anyone to make at least a cursory study of the crimes of the Nazis and to engage in some serious reflection about them.

In terms of WWII films,  I can't say that I've had my fill yet but I rather doubt there's much else I can be moved by. Go ahead filmmakers, prove me wrong.


Martin Keller said...

I too am tired of the WWII/Nazi/ Holocaust genre. For my money, it don't get any more moving than Night and Fog, or any more vindicating that Basterds.

Kate said...

Just found your blog through imdb's hit list and was absorbed for over an hour. I must go to sleep, but I will definitely be back. As some one who is only 23, I just wanted to let you know there are a few young people who respect old movies.

Richard Hourula said...

Thanks, Kate, I appreciate your comment.