Monday, April 21, 2008

World War I blog ... and movies

I have been following the "Harry's War" story, the letters sent by a WW I soldier that are being posted exactly 90 years to the day after the letters were sent home. Since we don't know if he even made it home alive, the one to two week gaps between letters leave us hanging and must have been harrowing for the family.

I knew a lot about the Great War from my grandfather, who was (as I recall) over there or on his way via crowded troop ship by now (meaning April 1918). He enlisted in 1917 after the end of the spring semester at college. When November 11 rolls around I will have to post his story of Armistice Day. But this soldier was fighting on the Italian front, so this blog has opened up a whole new story for me. Among other things, I now know where Asiago is located. Turns out it is more than a cheese; it was the site of a major battle in late WW I ... a battle that could play a role in the life - or death - of the man we are meeting through his letters. Through the miracle of blogs and the web, there is now a parallel site showing satellite images of the terrain where this all takes place.

If you have not checked it out, you should, but this note is also about what is showing this next month on Turner Classic Movies.

April 27, 8 pm
J'Accuse (1919) is a silent film that I am looking forward to seeing for the first time. Click for TCM (includes video clips) and IMDB info and a TCM article. The film contains footage shot during the war, and this is reportedly the original 3-hour version that was banned in France.

May 24, 8 pm
Paths of Glory (1957), by Stanley Kubrick, is showing as one of "The Essentials". I've seen this several times, and it is just as fresh (and harsh) each time. Click for TCM (includes video clips) and IMDB info.

Along the way, Rebecca (1940) is showing on May 3 at 8 pm as another of "The Essentials". Click for IMDB info. This just another of Hitchcock's great movies. I think it is spookier than some of his more popular ones. Another, Psycho, airs on May 31.

Now if they could only find a way to work in La Grande Illusion (1937), where Erich von Stroheim has a spectacular supporting role in another film about the futility of war. Click for TCM and IMDB info. (TCM has several video clips.) The timing of that film, just before WW II, might give an indication of why France was still recovering from its losses in WW I and utterly unable to resist Hitler. (Imagine if we had lost 5 million killed and as many maimed in the five years we have been in Iraq.) The most interesting thing to me is that these two aristocrats are multilingual, and the film assumes the viewer is as well!

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