Friday, February 12, 2010

War Films

(fm the BC thread "The 20% Solution")

bogie wheel,
What American war films would teach the both the nature of the event and deal with fundamental dramatic truths so that students could follow the links? If possible I would try to get the students to appreciate Black and White films by pointing out how a tighter medium well handled can convey more powerfully than a less disciplined one. For proof show them how a good silent film, such as "The Thief of Baghdad" or "Wings," was a better made and more exciting movie than the early talkies with their static cameras and microphones. Consider how people were swept up by the story of a martian invasion by Orson Wells' production on radio. The more that the theater is in your mind the more convincing it is. That lesson on the value of artistic discipline can have powerful implications throughout life. It certainly can inform their ability to appreciate the warrior ethos in many cultures, whether American, Arab or Japanese.

The need to be overtly American restricts consideration of fine films like Petersen's "Das Boot" Coward's "In Which We Serve" and Kurosawa's "Kagemusha." In fact the students should be told that "The Magnificent Seven" is a remake of his "Seven Samurai" and his "Ran" is a remake of King Lear. Great art deal with great issues that changes when translated but still has power to reach us. Also, since the death of the studio system in the 1950s the distinction between American and Foreign films has become arbitrary. When the actors, directors, locations and distribution company owners can come from a dozen different countries, who gets the nationality credit?

My spur of the moment list, for what it worth.
Korean War Navy        - The Bridges at Toko Ri,
Europe WW-II Army  - Battleground, A Walk in the Sun,
Wurope WW-II Air     - Twelve O'Clock High,
Pacific WW-II Navy    - They Were Expendable, Run Silent Run Deep.
The Great War              - All Quiet On the Western Front

solipsistic, risible, repulsive

Is that your law firm or a list of minor characters from J.K. Rowling?

boggie wheel,
It probably says more about me than your students but I do not get considering “Battleship Potemkin” as to esoteric for undergraduates. It is no “Andalusian Dog.” Good propaganda, and BP was the best, is simple and lucid.

Potemkin is probably more accessible than period piece musicals like “On The Town” or “An American In Paris.” Those should be good for looking at how we viewed ourselves and others after the war.

For discussing American society before the war I would consider screwball comedies such as “Bringing Up Baby.” If I used “The Great McGinty” I would ask: What if anything has changed? The best character study, political study, or movie ever made IMHO remains “Citizen Kane.” For extra credit a student could use “The Magnificent Ambersons.” Another great pre-war look at what then were considered the good old days was “The Late George Apply.”

For America after the war I would add a film noir to the mix. This could lead to some good questioning. Why were comedies so popular during the Depression and why did films turn dark when we had in fact won the war?

Did I miss something or did anybody mention “Gone With The Wind?”

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