Archive for the ‘WW2’ Category

Weird.

A director from the French-speaking part of Belgium made a movie about the life of Jewish businessmen in Germany, just after the end of the second world war.

The international title is Bye Bye Germany, which isn’t really a good translation of the original title. It should have been Once Upon A Time In Germany. The English title however explains a bit more about what the movie is all about though.

After having been rescued from the camps, the remaining Jews in Germany wanted to leave to the USA or (then) Palestine as soon as possible. Some of them decided to stay in Germany and do a little business to make money before emigrating. One of them was David Bermann, who – together with a group of aspiring emigrants – starts selling linen to the Germans. Any trick in the book was worth the try and they did succeed in making good money fast.

However, the memories of the atrocities of the war are still very fresh and not everyone can put the past behind them as easy as some others. Bermann himself on the other hand seems to only look at the future. Until an American investigator invites him to explain why his name is in a lot of Nazi documents. Was Bermann a traitor? Was he a collaborator? Or is he just a con, lying and cheating in order to survive?

The premise sounds intriguing, but the movie is a bit of a bore. There’s not a good balance between the storyline of the Jewish people trying to survive after the war and the storyline of the investigation. It starts of great though, with a lot of details on how these Jewish door-to-door salesmen managed to sell their goods. But then the focus shifts to the interrogation. The director decided to let Bermann explain what happened to him, accompanied with flashback scenes. Probably because he wants the audience to also doubt if the stories are true or not. But somehow that doesn’t really work that well.

Interesting, but not memorable. It wasn’t a success in Germany. Neither will it be in the rest of the world. It does look good though.

www.imdb.com/title/tt5609734/

Sure, it’s a good history lesson and yes, Jessica Chastain is a great actress, but this movie is pretty dull. It shouldn’t be. It’s about a noble and brave couple that helped rescue several Jewish people from the ghetto in Warsaw, during the German occupation. Yet, there’s nothing in the movie that stresses this bravery and nobility. It all feels too much like fiction.

First there’s the decision to film a story in Poland and have the characters speak English. That’s a standard procedure in Hollywood (or other movie industries), but it’s annoying. Especially if the actors speaks English with an accent. Either speak Polish and have it subtitled or speak English. But English with a fake Polish accent, just makes the story less realistic.

Then there’s the development of the side characters. Or better: the lack of. In order to empathize with the victims, it’s important to get to know them. But we never do. They get rescued and hide, but we don’t know anything about them. Some stay a bit longer, others come and go. It’s all very superficial. You should feel like the zookeeper and his wife are doing something special, but the way it’s presented feels like they are just doing what’s right. There’s little tension. And that feels unrealistic too.

And finally, there’s the redundant character of Lutz Heck, a former friend and colleague of the zookeeper and his wife, turning against them and becoming the bad guy in the movie. He’s a zoologist and a scientist with crazy ideas, which is intriguing, but turns out to be a powerful nazi officer in the occupied Warsaw as well. Which is a bit far-fetched.

There are two different stories here. One is about a family who has the means and courage to rescue people and takes the risk of doing so. And the other is about a scientist who uses the zoo’s facilities to breed animals that were believed to be extinct. Mixing both of them feels fictionalized.

The Zookeeper’s Wife is okay movie fare, but the real story is much more exciting.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1730768

 

Dunkirk – ***

Posted: July 31, 2017 in 2017, UK, USA, War, WW2, XXX

A few weeks ago, upon its premiere, Christopher Nolan’s new masterpiece seemed to only get rave reviews. The must-see movie of the summer! You won’t see anything better in the next couple of months! Great! In the meantime, several articles have been published that focus on Dunkirk’s shortcomings. Historically and dramatically. So, time to see it before the hype is over!

It’s a good movie. It’s action packed and doesn’t bore one tiny bit. It’s loud, which is great for a war movie. The direction is flawless. There’s not much dialogue, but that’s not necessary. The movie succeeds well in telling the story through moving images. Another interesting aspect is the non-chronological order in which the tale is told. It keeps you intrigued until the end. And the musical score by Hans Zimmer is brilliant. So, yes, it’s a must-see movie! Especially at the movie theatre.

But the haters have a point as well. David Cox from the Guardian wrote a great bad review, in which he expresses his disappointment excellently. It’s always tricky to make a historically accurate movie that covers the entire story. In fact, it’s impossible. So, when a director chooses three different stories that intertwine and have you sit on the top of your seat for about two hours, then it’s good. It’s best to not have any expectations at all and just feel blown away. You can read up on the history after watching the movie.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5013056/

Hacksaw Ridge – **(*)

Posted: March 14, 2017 in 2016, Action, Australia, War, WW2, XX1/2

A member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church (some kind of evangelical group) enlists to help out in World War II, but refuses to carry a gun as he refuses to kill anybody. He enlists as a medic as he wants to save lives, but he needs to go through a training in which shooting a riffle is part of the program. It’s a tough training and he nearly doesn’t make it to the battle fields, but when he does, he’s heralded by his bravery. Because it’s possible to help, save and serve in war times without killing.

This Mel Gibson movie starts off slowly, but is quite powerful in the second half, during the actual taking of Hackswaw Ridge on Okinawa Island near Japan. It’s an interesting story regardless if you think it’s extremely silly or incredibly brave to enlist for war and refuse to  use a weapon . It’s based on a true story. But it’s of course a fictionalized version of it. To learn more about the real Desmond Doss, check this history vs hollywood site. But do it after you’ve experienced the movie.

Some critics call it christian propaganda. Just because the main character acts out of faith, prays and carries a bible with him. But Mel Gibson (a notorious catholic) never glorifies the religion conviction. He just shows a man who is very firm in his principles. Which again can be interpreted as silly or brave. But at least it isn’t negative.

The action is hardcore though. Limbs fly around. Some scenes can be considered horror. So it isn’t for the weak at heart. Nor is it for people who think Andrew Garfield is an overrated actor. In fact, the whole cast are just okay performers. There’s not one performance that sticks. But it’s a good war movie. A tad too long maybe.  But worth watching.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2119532

Based on an autographical book from the seventies, Un Sac De Billes tells the story of the Jewish family Joffo (and in particular the youngest sons Joseph and Maurice) during the Second World War. The family has a popular barber shop in occupied Paris and even has German officers as clients. But when Jewish people need to start wearing a yellow badge, the family decides to flee to unoccupied southern France. Not as one family, but split up. It’s quite a journey, but they make it to Nice, which is in the unoccupied zone and under surveillance of the more moderate Italians soldiers. Until Mussolini is disposed and the nazis come marching in and the family has to flee again.

This classical tearjerker is made for kids. They are the central characters and all focus is on them. It’s adventurous at times and there are some funny scenes too. But it also has some harsh moments that may not be suitable for kids (there is an execution by firing squad f.i.). The movie theatre was filled with adults though, a lot of seniors even. And almost everyone was sobbing. It’s not as good as Au Revoir Les Enfants, but it’s worth the watch. The period setting is praiseworthy and it’s not all that moralizing and pretty factual. The kids’ performances are good. But it’s in the supporting roles dat you see talented actors like Patrick Bruel or Christian Clavier shine.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5091612

Allied – **(*)

Posted: January 15, 2017 in 2016, Romance, Spionage, UK, USA, WW2, XX1/2

Catching this during its final week at the movie theaters, Allied does deliver. The classic WWII romantic thriller is well directed (by Robert Zemeckis) and stars the almost always fascinating Marion Cotillard as a resistance girl/spy. It stars Brad Pitt as a Canadian pilot/secret agent as well. But even though he’s also a main character in the movie, his fascination for Marion Cotillard makes him look like a supporting actor. It makes sense that the yellow press accuse Cotillard for the break-up of Brangelina.

The movie’s atmosphere reminds you of other great war classics like Casablanca (the location of the first half of the movie) and Lawrence Of Arabia (the opening dessert sequence). Much time (and money) was spent on details. The set design is impeccable. It looks really good. As far as the story goes, it’s intriguing until the end. It really does feel like it’s based on a true story. Even though it’s all fiction and several scenes don’t make sense.

Not sure if all the cursing happened back then the way it happens in the movie. And not sure if lesbian couples could be so open about their relationship back in 1942 (that scene adds nothing to the story either). Not sure how a British pilot can fly across the Channel into enemy territory and fly back home the next day like it’s nothing. Come to think of it.

Now, a day later, several things just don’t make sense. However, when leaving the theatre the feeling was good.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3640424

The Imitation Game – **

Posted: December 25, 2016 in 2014, biopic, Drama, Historical, LGBT themed, UK, USA, WW2, XX