Natalia

The Monuments Men

24 posts in this topic

Oh golly -- I saw a preview of this a few months ago that looked very interesting, but didn't realize that the Giamatti character was Kirstein.

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Not a good sign that they moved the US release date from awards season (Dec 2013) into Feb 2014. Jan/Feb is usually known in the industry as the time when studios dump bad movies into theaters. However, I find it hard to believe that a movie starring Clooney and Blanchett could be bad, so I'll wait and see how the reviews are.

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Having read two of Edsel's books, "The Monuments Men" and "Rescuing Da Vinci", I would say that Clooney was an obvious casting choice. We must simply hope that the the script treatment is decent. It's always depressing when an interesting subject is simply ruined by uncaring, greedy studio bosses and hacks.

But I hope for the best - it's a big story with a lot of room for drama.

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The trailer I saw had a fair share of snappy dialogue, as well as some skulking around -- it certainly looked like I'd want to see it.

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The trailer I saw had a fair share of snappy dialogue, as well as some skulking around -- it certainly looked like I'd want to see it.

I take that as a good sign, Sandik, since most trailers make everything look simply ridiculous. ;)

I'm guessing Blanchett is tackling the role of Rose Valland whom she in no way physically/culturally/emotionally resembles, and so it will be a great acting challenge.

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FANTASTIC news!!

IT's such a thrilling story --

Martin Duberman tells it very well, also, in his great bio of Kirstein [which is one of the best biographies I've ever read about anybody anywhere].

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Not a good sign that they moved the US release date from awards season (Dec 2013) into Feb 2014. Jan/Feb is usually known in the industry as the time when studios dump bad movies into theaters. However, I find it hard to believe that a movie starring Clooney and Blanchett could be bad, so I'll wait and see how the reviews are.

Indeed, since the subject of the movie is obvious Oscar bait. Giamatti as Kirstein is somebody's bad idea, I hope the movie doesn't have too many of them.

Thanks for posting the information, Natalia, I hadn't heard.

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Not a good sign that they moved the US release date from awards season (Dec 2013) into Feb 2014. Jan/Feb is usually known in the industry as the time when studios dump bad movies into theaters. However, I find it hard to believe that a movie starring Clooney and Blanchett could be bad, so I'll wait and see how the reviews are.

Indeed, since the subject of the movie is obvious Oscar bait. Giamatti as Kirstein is somebody's bad idea, I hope the movie doesn't have too many of them.

Agreed - Only someone like Philip Seymour Hoffman could (maybe) pull off that kind of transformation of self. But safer to go with a large actor who looks like Kirsten to begin with. Hmmmm, Who would that be?

Know any actor that looks like this?

http://0.tqn.com/d/arthistory/1/0/L/3/1/Walker-Evans-Lincoln-Kirstein-1930.jpg

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The movie is out. Turns out Kirstein never made it into the movie - he's subsumed into a 'composite" character played by Bob Balaban. The reviews I've seen are mixed-to-negative, but if you're interested in the subject matter it sounds worth checking out.

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The movie is out. Turns out Kirstein never made it into the movie - he's subsumed into a 'composite" character played by Bob Balaban. The reviews I've seen are mixed-to-negative, but if you're interested in the subject matter it sounds worth checking out.

I may still go and see the film in theatres (because I'm a glutton for punishment), but most of what I've read about the film makes me cringe. How could Rose Valland not even figure into this "treatement"? Sounds like all the characters are 'composites' of personalities and experiences. The Monuments Men and Women story really lends itself to a series/episodic apporach - anyone at HBO hearing this?

This does seem to reinforce the Hollywood rule that only inconsequential flops are released in the dead of winter, after the new year.

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To its credit, the National Geographic Channel broadcast a wonderful documentary last week. I don't know when/if it will be rebroadcast, but it tells the story very nicely:

http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/galleries/monument-men/at/hitlers-vision-2077987/

In Clooney's film, the Cate Blanchett character is derived from Valland. As there was only one of her (no need for a composite), it's odd they changed her name for the film.

I would also recommend Edsel's book on this. http://www.amazon.com/Monuments-Men-Thieves-Greatest-Treasure/dp/1599951509/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1391983604&sr=1-1&keywords=robert+edsel

I haven't seen the film yet, but plan to, despite all these negative reviews and comments.

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I saw it this weekend, and I'm afraid that the reviews are fair -- it's not a terrible film by any measure, but it's certainly not as compelling as most of Clooney's personal projects.

The difficulty with composite characters is that they can have a certain gloss -- we are all a collection of our attributes, but in this case the attributes are selected, and they don't always add up to a real, flawed human being.

I cannot remember which critic observed that by sending the men out in pairs to pursue different leads the film becomes a series of vignettes, more or less engaging, but not hanging together as an overall narrative. It may indeed be the case that they worked in two-person teams, but what might have been effective detective work doesn't become compelling storytelling here. Clooney has a number of speeches through the film that attempt to stitch things together, but again, they feel more contrived than historical.

Overall, the film feels very much like one of the formula WWII films made in the decade after the war, where stock characters ran through a series of predictable challenges to an obvious conclusion. The fact that the characters here are drawn from a real group of people and that the tasks they are pursuing were involved in saving our cultural heritage makes the film interesting to me, but, alas, not likely to engage people who aren't already enthusiasts.

I'm still thrilled with the idea of art historians being shown as heroes, and raising the profile of their work -- I just wish it had been a better film.

Unhappily, it reminded me of the satirical descriptions that Robert Altman used in MASH -- the 'films' that were supposed to be shown in camp. From IMDB:

P.A. Announcer: "So big, only the biggest of the screen can bring it to you all. Technicolor. Tell it to the Marines, those loveable lugs with wonderful mugs so we now love more than ever. Tell'em they're still the greatest guys in the world." Follow Lieutenant, Punchy, Limey, Babyface, Doc, The Poet, Pretty Boy and Slattery through some of the most interesting war films yet created.

P.A. Announcer: Attention. Attention. Friday night's movie will be The Glory Brigade. Rock'em sock'em kisses you never got. It's Uncle Sam's combat engineers charging side by side with Greek hand bags. Showing the world a new way to fight as they use bulldozers like bazookas, bayonnets like bazook - bullets. Starring Victor Mature. That is all.

P.A. Announcer: Attention. Attention. May I have the camps' attention? This week's movie will be When Willie Comes Marching Home. Uh... The biggest parade of laughs of World War II. All the love, laughs and escapades of the Willies who came marching home. This film stars Dan Dailey, Corinne Calvet, and Colleen Townsend.

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Composite characters can work successfully - sometimes they're essential when telling a story involving a large group of real people, because trying to fit everyone in can diffuse the drama, making it hard for viewers not already familiar with the personalities and the outline of the tale to remember who's who. They just shouldn't be stock composite characters.

This does seem to reinforce the Hollywood rule that only inconsequential flops are released in the dead of winter, after the new year.

In fairness they're not always terrible movies, just ones unsuited suited for release during Oscar season, when the competition among new releases is very tight. In the case of "The Monuments Men" the story was that they wanted to polish something that was already in splendid shape, but given the mixed critical reception, perhaps there were problems that needed fixing.

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Has anyone else seen the movie since its DVD release?

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I saw it on an airplane. Does that count?

It's a wonderful story that was given a pretty standard Hollywood treatment. It's not a great film, but not terrible either. No doubt it wouldn't pass muster among art professionals and historians, but I would hope that it could pique the interest of someone who hadn't been familiar with the Monuments Men before. During the last half year or so I came across little displays about them at a couple of museums, first at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, and then at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. Perhaps more visitors were prompted to stop and read them as a result of the movie. It may not have been the doing of the film itself, but having seen some of the pieces central to the plot, I couldn't help but be grateful that they had been rescued, and that sent some tingles up my spine and even made me a little teary.

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60 Minutes repeated a program on the discovery of another cache of WWII looted art, and mentioned the monuments men as part of the background.

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I've seen the DVD release. As someone said to me, it has the feel of an older Hollywood WWII film - one almost expects to see Van Johnson pop up. Unfortunately the film is not impactful, imo. And since the facts get skewed for the sake of making 2 hours of entertainment, it's not a place to go for real information. But as Vocanohunter stated, it may pique the interest of people who are unfamiliar with the this part of WWII. And the truth is far more involved and incredible (or horrifying) than the story this film portrays. I may have said this before, but the subject would have been much better served as an HBO series in the vein of Band of Brothers.

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I also saw it on an airplane and for airplane viewing I thought it just hit the spot. More seriously (I guess), I appreciated what they were trying to do, but the writing was really paint-by-numbers Hollywood WWII flick.

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Although the movie had many acclaimed stars, it often felt boring because of the poor writing. It wa okay as a DVD rental.

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Wow. Thanks for the responses, everyone. Yes, airplane viewings count. smile.png Keep them coming!

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I haven't seen the movie but looked at the trailer and it does look like an ironed-out Hollywood film, not without good Hollywood acting and cinematic values. Perhaps Clooney and the others wanted to retroactively cast themselves in a WWII high art film like "The Longest Day," remembered from childhood.

I was surprised to see on the long list of real-life Monument Men the names of Bernard Taper and Douglas Cooper, the Cubist art patron and historian. Cooper's bio includes this, with an interesting wrinkle at the end:

Among Cooper’s more important discoveries was the “Schenker Papers,” which were records from the Paris office of the primary German art shipper containing details of the illegal art transactions between French dealers and German buyers. From these documents Cooper was able to trace most, if not all, of the illegally acquired French art which had been sent to Germany. The papers also revealed the high level of involvement of German museums in the premeditated looting of Jewish collections.

Equally amazing to MFAA investigators was Cooper’s detailed investigation into the Swiss art trade during the war which revealed that many dealers and collectors were implicated in the trade of Nazi looted artworks. Cooper spent the month of February 1945 in Switzerland as a representative of the MFAA and the French Recuperation Commission, interrogating various dealers and collectors who worked with the Nazis, including Theodore Fischer of the Fischer Gallery, who conducted the infamous sale of “degenerate” artworks in 1939.

According to John Richardson, Cooper also ordered the arrest of the Swiss dealer Charles Montag, who had been involved in the liquidation of the Bernheim-Jeune Gallery, however, he was mysteriously released by higher authority.

Undeterred, Cooper arrested him again, only to have his authority usurped once more by Winston Churchill, who came to the aid of Montag, his old friend and drawing instructor.

http://www.monumentsmen.com/the-monuments-men/monuments-men-roster

Clooney is now promoting the return of the Pantheon (sorry, wrong address!) marbles.

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/feb/11/george-clooney-bill-murray-matt-damon-elgin-marbles

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An interview with Anne Olivier Bell, aged 97, the only female member of the team.

The behaviour of other Allied forces disappointed her too.

“Some Americans, still in Germany, stole some of the art. They seemed to think they had a right to take away pictures as compensation for having to fight.” The Soviets had also removed pictures from where they had been stored in Berlin during the war. “Sadly, I found out that quite a few caught fire and were destroyed.”

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