Movies

Apocalypse Now – Movie..

Posted on May 10, 2019. Filed under: Movies |

Extracted from the Wire’s Article by Alfio Leotta, Senior Lecturer, Victoria University of Wellington.

The screenplay for the 1979 war movie Apocalypse Now, describes the sequence in which a squadron of American helicopters blasts Wagner while attacking a Viet Cong village during the Vietnam War.

The scene would become one of the most iconic in cinema history – acknowledged, celebrated and parodied in countless subsequent films.

On the occasion of the film’s 40th anniversary, director Francis Ford Coppola has now unveiled Apocalypse Now: Final Cut.

Apocalypse Now’s contribution to cinema history is not limited to the helicopter attack sequence. This memorable monologue uttered by Robert Duvall as Lt. Colonel Kilgore was voted the best-ever film speech by a survey of 6,500 movie buffs.

You smell that? Do you smell that? Napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of napalm in the morning.

The epic scale of the production, shot on location in the Philippines jungle, and Coppola’s operatic direction that brought together spectacular cinematography, a hypnotic soundtrack and brooding performances, make Apocalypse Now a major cinematic landmark.

On its initial release 40 years ago, the film received mixed reviews. 

John Milius: from Nirvana Now to Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now is usually considered to be Coppola’s magnum opus, alongside The Godfather Part I and II. 

As producer, director and co-writer, he is regarded as the auteur of the film. In Hearts of Darkness.

Most contemporary viewers might not be aware of the major contribution another, less known figure made to the film.

John Milius, credited as co-writer of the film, was responsible for creating some of its most iconic moments, including the helicopter attack sequence. He also wrote some of the film’s most memorable lines, including “I love the smell of napalm” and “Charlie don’t surf”, and even the title itself.

 

During this period, Milius achieved international fame as creator of cinematic icons as Dirty Harry (1971) and Jeremiah Johnson (1973).

Milius came up with the title of the film before actually writing the screenplay. He said the title Apocalypse Now emerged out of his own contrarian spirit and rejection of the hippy culture that was increasingly gaining terrain in late 1960s California. In Milius’s words:

I had the title, Apocalypse Now, because the hippies at the time had these buttons that said Nirvana Now. I loved the idea of a guy having a button with a mushroom cloud on it that said Apocalypse Now. You know, let’s bring it on, full nuke.

Milius wrote extensive notes and recorded stories of returning Vietnam veterans, but did not write the screenplay until contracted to do so in 1969. During this period, he discussed the project at length with fellow USC student George Lucas, who was interested both in the Vietnam War and in directing the film. 

In 1969, Coppola, who had studied film at the University of California Los Angeles and was a close friend of both Milius and Lucas, established independent production company American Zoetrope, which would fund a number of innovative projects, including Apocalypse Now.

According to the original arrangement, Lucas would direct the film while Milius would write the screenplay. The story was conceived as a journey into the horrors of the Vietnam War and was influenced by Milius’s passion for the classics of world literature, particularly Homer’s Odysseyand Dante’s Inferno.

While writing the screenplay, Milius imagined a soundtrack that would include Wagner and The Doors. Milius’s idea to use Wagner for the helicopter attack was inspired by real events, as American troops sometimes played rock and roll music from loud speakers during the Vietnam War as a way of intimidating the enemy. The Doors, who had written several songs about the madness of the war, provided another major source of inspiration.

In Milius’s original screenplay, rogue American Colonel Kurtz (played in the film by Marlon Brando) is a big fan of Jim Morrison and his band. In one of the sequences of the original script, Kurtz orders his soldiers to blast ‘Light My Fire’ by The Doors on big speakers as their compound is attacked by the North Vietnamese army. 

Eventually, Coppola never shot the scene featuring ‘Light My Fire’, but used extracts of another Doors hit, ‘The End’, in both the opening and closing sequences of the film.

Milius and Coppola were clashing auteurs

Originally, Milius and Lucas envisioned Apocalypse Now as a pseudo-documentary shot on location in 16mm and black and white. They were interested in emulating the realist aesthetic of films such as Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers (1966) and The Anderson Platoon (1967), a documentary about the Vietnam War directed by one of Milius’s favourite filmmakers, Pierre Schoendoerffer. 

Milius and Lucas intended to bring cast and crew to Vietnam where they would intersperse a mix of scripted and improvised scenes of performers interacting with real soldiers and events.

But eventually, Lucas abandoned the project to direct Star Wars (1977) and was replaced by Coppola, who radically changed the original approach to Apocalypse Now. He envisioned a large-budget spectacular production.

After Coppola completed revisions of the screenplay in 1975, Milius spoke out about the two filmmakers’ conflicting creative visions. 

Milius was particularly critical about Coppola’s attempt to transform Apocalypse Now into an anti-war film and accused the San Francisco-based director of rejecting the creative input of his collaborators. In a 1976 interviewMilius claimed:

Francis Coppola has this compelling desire to save humanity when the man is a raving fascist, the Bay Area Mussolini. The final film version was far from what Milius contemptuously defined as “an anti-war movie”. 

Many scenes and lines created by Milius remained virtually untouched and Coppola retained Milius’ key themes, in particular the conception of war as simultaneously exciting and horrific, the ultimate expression of man’s “inherent bestiality”.

Later in his career, Milius changed his opinion of the film, expressing appreciation of Coppola’s revisions and describing the director as “a genius on a par with Orson Welles”.

For their work on Apocalypse Now, Milius and Coppola received a nomination for best screenplay at the 1979 Academy Awards. In the 1980s, Milius went on to direct films such as Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Red Dawn (1984), but a combination of commercial flops and health problems would lead to the gradual decline of his career in the 1990s and 2000s.

For creating many of the ideas behind Apocalypse Now, Milius should be remembered as a major contributor to one of the most influential stories ever told on the big screen.

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Forty Yr Old Film on Jesus …

Posted on April 25, 2019. Filed under: Movies |

Excerpted from The Wire – An Article by Philip Almond, emeritus professor in the History of Religious Thought, The University of Queensland.


This year is the 40th anniversary of the release of Monty Python’s Life of Brian. The film met with instant controversy in 1979 and was banned in Ireland, Norway and parts of Britain. In the US, protesters gathered outside cinemas where it aired.

Life of Brian tells the story of Brian of Nazareth (played by Graham Chapman), who is born on the same day as Jesus of Nazareth. After joining a Jewish, anti-Roman terrorist group, The People’s Front of Judea, he is mistaken for a prophet and becomes an unwilling Messiah. 

All this eventually produces the film’s most remembered line, courtesy of Brian’s mother Mandy (Terry Jones). “He’s not the Messiah,” she tells us, “he’s a very naughty boy”.

In November 1979, the BBC famously televised a debate between Pythons John Cleese and Michael Palin and two pillars of the Christian establishment, journalist Malcolm Muggeridge and then Bishop of Southwark Mervyn Stockwood. 

Each side totally failed to understand the other. Muggeridge’s point was that Brian was nothing but a “lampooning of Christ”. The Pythons argued this couldn’t be so because Brian was not Jesus. Technically, they were right. Still, this did not satisfy the Bishop, or the film’s many critics.

How does Life of Brian – which is being re-released to mark the anniversary – stand the test of time? 

Watching it today, it seems, as parody goes, it is a pretty gentle, even, respectful sort. Ironically, to be properly offended by it or even to get the joke – then or now – requires a good knowledge of the life of Jesus in the New Testament Gospels.

What of the Church’s complaint that Brian was Jesus and thus the film was sacriligious or even blasphemous? 

There are three places in it where Brian and Jesus are clearly distinguished. Firstly, when the wise men – having worshipped the wrong baby – realise their mistake, they return to the stable to retrieve their gifts. 

Secondly, Brian is seen in the crowd listening to Jesus deliver the Sermon on the Mount. And in another scene, an ex-leper (Palin) complains to Brian about the loss of his livelihood as a beggar because Jesus has cured him.

Still, Brian is in some sense, “Jesus”. 

For the film relies on both the similarities and differences between the lives of both men. They are both born in stables. They both meet their deaths through crucifixion, although the one ends in Jesus’s resurrection from the dead and the other in Eric Idle’s nihilistic song ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’. (“For Life is quite absurd, and Death’s the final word.”) 

The Pythons also make the point that there were many others like Jesus at the time (such as Palin’s really boring prophet) all proclaiming the end of the world was at hand.

Life of Brian was certainly considered blasphemous in 1979 – and the film itself makes references to the absurdity of blasphemy as a crime.

Today, however, blasphemy is no longer on the cultural agenda of the non-Muslim West. 

Christians and others look disapprovingly on Islam’s understanding of blasphemy and the severe punishments meted out for it. 

As a crime, it has been religiously “othered”.

The virtue of the film today is its capacity to offend a whole new generation of viewers for different reasons. It is now more likely to be criticised for breaching the boundaries of “political correctness” around issues of gender, race, class and disability than blasphemy.

It is difficult, for instance, to hear Brian assert his Jewish identity in anti-Semitic terms:

I’m not a Roman, Mum, and I never will be! I’m a Kike! A Yid! A Hebe! A Hook-nose! I’m Kosher, Mum! I’m a Red Sea Pedestrian, and proud of it!

Still, as gender transitioning becomes culturally mainstream, the desire of the revolutionary Stan (Eric Idle) to be a woman, to be called “Loretta” and to have babies, will strike a chord.

And one cannot underestimate the sheer pleasure certain memorable scenes bring: from the misheard Sermon on The Mount – 

“Blessed are the Cheesemakers”) to the sight of Brian rewriting “Romans Go Home” on the palace walls, after a passing Centurion disgusted at Brian’s faulty Latin grammar, forces him to write out the correct protest message 100 times.

Life of Brian is undoubtedly a criticism of the unthinking nature of religious belief, from the perspective of the freedom and authority of the individual. 

In a key scene, Brian tells a crowd they are all individuals. “Yes, we’re all individuals,” the crowd responds.

Then one lonely voice, Dennis, chimes in. “I’m not,”

In this assertion of the freedom of the individual, of the virtue of thinking for yourselves, the film exemplifies modernity. 

As Immanuel Kant put it in 1784, “‘Have the courage to use your own understanding!’ — that is the motto of enlightenment.”

This notion was at the heart of all of Monty Python’s work and is the central message of Life of Brian.

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Anjan Basu on Satyajit Ray Stories …

Posted on April 20, 2019. Filed under: Books, Movies |

The Tales of Little Men That Satyajit Ray Told

On what would have been his 97th birthday, a look at how Ray effortlessly weaves tales of perfectly ordinary, indeed insignificant, women and men whose lives are a testimony to the triumph of simplicity and basic goodness over arrogance and selfishness.  

 ‘Patolbabu, Film Star’ is very near its end, and Patol is done with his share of the film shoot. 

He “jostled  his way through the crowd as he wiped the sweat off his brow, walked over to where the paan shop stood, and stopped in its shade. Clouds had covered the sun, lowering the heat somewhat, but he took off his jacket nevertheless. Ah, what relief! A sense of deep satisfaction, of happiness, took hold of his mind.”

Patol had been an amateur stage actor a long time ago. He was young then, and hoped to make a name for himself one day. Now, very much on the wrong side of 50, short, balding and always hard up, he had not held a steady job in years and felt very grateful when Naresh, the production manager of a film company who had known Patol for many years, offered him a bit role in a movie. 

Patol was dismayed, however, when he was given the script: his role, that of a pedestrian on a busy street, consisted of a single grunt –an irritated ‘Ah!’—when the hero  carelessly bumped into him and moved on without so much as a look back at him. 

Unsure at first if Naresh was pulling his leg, Patol yet managed to put his heart and soul in the ‘part’, and when he knew he had played it well, he walked off from the scene at a languid pace, a happy man.

When Naresh, the production manager, came looking for Patol near the paan shop, he was surprised not to find him anywhere. “What a strange man! And how very forgetful! Didn’t even wait for his payment!” Meanwhile, Patolbabu walked on cheerfully. “…

Today his work was quite satisfying. Even though nobody had given him a part all these years, his artistic sense had luckily not blunted yet… Well, these film people! All that concerned them was getting some hands together to somehow get the job done. And then pay them off. 

Well, how much do they pay: five, ten, twenty bucks? Of course he needed money, needed it quite desperately, but after all what is five or ten rupees compared to the happiness he found today?”

An attentive reader of Satyajit Ray stories – and he published nearly 90, not counting his incredibly popular ‘Feluda’ stories in the whodunit genre and the sci-fi ‘Shonku’ stories – comes across the Patolbabus of the world every now and then. 

These are truly ordinary men. There is nothing of note in either their appearance or their occupation, or even in the way they go about their lives. 

These lives are lived at the far edge of the city’s lower-middle class quarters, dull, shabby lives as uneventful as a muddy pool of stagnant water whose surface barely a ripple ever touches. 

Their future as much as their present is destined to be vapid, colourless. And yet once in a long while, something quite out of the ordinary happens that lights up these lives. From somewhere comes a sense of fulfilment, of a day passed meaningfully. The wretchedness of the quotidian life is forgotten in a trice. The stagnant pool comes alive suddenly.

Ray’s first-published short story was ‘Bonkubabu’s Friend’ in 1961. Bonkubehari Dutta teaches Bengali and Geography at a suburban primary school. His poor pay makes sure that he lives from hand to mouth all the year round, and his mild, almost timid, manner makes sure that he is the butt of everyone’s jokes everywhere, including at the evening get-togethers at friend Sripatibabu’s. 

Sripati, a prosperous lawyer owning an imposing house and pots of money, is the town’s only opinion maker. Neither Sripati nor his many flunkeys ever let go of an opportunity of hectoring Bonku, or pinning him down with the most vicious joke. 

They ‘sweeten’ his tea with salt, make his paan with chalk-dust, hide his umbrella or his slippers, and relish calling him ‘bnyaka’ (or, ‘twisted-face’, a play upon ‘Bonku’).

Their heartlessness often brings Bonkubabu to the verge of bitter tears, and he toys with the idea of giving these evening parties a miss. But he does not dare. After all, Sripati’s money gives him enormous influence, and he could if he wished make night day. Besides, Sripati would not dream of letting Bonku absent himself; for what is a party without someone really funny, someone you could do what you wished with? 

So Bonkubabu has to be in attendance every night, gritting his teeth as he sat through these interminably long, tiring sessions.

Such a man, of all men, one day runs into Ang, denizen of the planet Cranius from another galaxy. Ang speaks 14,000 languages, can thought-read at will, shows Bonku an arctic seal through his magic glasses one moment, and a Brazilian piranha the next. With his rugged hands, Ang touches Bonku’s sunken cheeks and says, “Even though you are from an inferior species, you don’t seem to be a bad man. Your problem is you are way too timid, so you don’t make any headway in life….. Anyway, I am glad to have met you.” 

As Ang shook his hand and got into his space-craft, Bonku suddenly realised what an extraordinary piece of luck he had just had; he a nobody from a place nobody had heard of was perhaps the only man in the whole world to meet this visitor from another planet. 

As the realisation began to sink in, Bonkubabu walked to Sripati’s house for his evening ordeal. But it was a different day today, and Bonkubabu a different man. He burst into Sripati’s room like a  Nor’wester, laughed a long, ringing laugh that swept across the room, taking in all those present in the room and stunning them into silence.

He then proceeded to address his friends thus: ‘…”Friends, I have the pleasure of announcing that I am here at your adda for the last time today. But before I leave your company for good, let me tell you a few home truths. First, all of you talk a lot of rubbish all the time. You should know that when you don’t know what you are blabbering about, people call you dumb. 

Number two, and this is meant for Nidhibabu, at your age fooling around with someone else’s umbrella or shoes is grotesque. Please send my brown canvas shoes and my umbrella to my house by tomorrow. 

Nidhibabu, mind you, if you any more call me bnyaka, I will call you chhnyada (the crack-bottomed) and that’s that. 

As for you Sripatibabu, you are a rich man and I can see you will need flunkeys all the time. But I am no more available for that kind of thing. I can send you my tomcat, if you want. It licks one’s feet quite well…”. 

Having said this, Bonkubabu with his left hand slapped Bhairab Chakraborty soundly on his back, making him sit up with a start, and then walked out of the room with a neat bow.’

At that moment something rare touched Bonkubabu, much as it had touched Patolbabu on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The shy, nervous Bonku, the poor, pitiable primary school teacher, of a sudden rose above his miserable existence, walking with his head held high. The quintessential Little Man had had his day, and we readers exulted with him.

Such little men dot the landscape of Ray stories. These are simple, uncomplicated stories. Ray tells them unselfconsciously, in the familiar idiom of the Bengali middle class city-dweller. Nothing very clever or exceptional here, very little is designed to startle you. The willing suspension of disbelief, the stock-in-trade of every master story-teller, works so well with these tales because they are imbued with a deep, simple humanism with which  the reader can identify naturally, unobtrusively.

Thus, you have Asamanjobabu, in ‘Asamanjobabu’s Dog’, who refuses to part with his pet, an otherwise undistinguished mongrel who laughs like a human, even when the fabulously rich William Moody, a tourist from distant Cincinnati, makes him a stunning offer of 20,000 dollars. 

Asamanjo, a modest clerk in a little office, knows that his life could change dramatically if he were only to say yes to the exchange. But he says no, says so quite simply, much to the chagrin and bewilderment of the visiting American and his Indian lackey. 

Utterly insignificant a man though he is, Asamonjo has no qualms about telling an incredibly powerful man just what he thought about the limits of his power, the power of money.

A still from the movie Mahanagar. Credit: Youtube ScreengrabR

In ‘The Pterodactyl’s Egg’, Badanbabu, a humble clerk in a government office, is conned by a glib-talking sorcerer who conjures up images of the Jurassic age for Badanbabu who is perennially looking out for new stories to tell his eight-year-old son, the paralytic Biltu who is confined to his bed. 

As Badan succumbs to the conman’s mesmeric charms, he is neatly relieved of his wallet. It was payday, and Badan loses his precious, but measly, salary in the blink of an eye. “Oh, what a shame! What an ass I made of myself today!”, muses Badanbabu as he trudges his weary way home. 

By the time he reaches home and enters Biltu’s room, however, the father can  bring a carefree tone to his voice: “Today I have a really nice story for you”. 

As he watches Biltu’s face light up with pleasure, the very ordinary Badanbabu – always worried because he is always short on cash – wonders if it was really worth losing sleep over the loss of his pittance of a salary. Wasn’t the smile on his sick son’s face worth at least that much?

The protagonist in most Ray stories is this archetypal little man. His back has been bent by long years of struggle to keep body and soul together. He is a mere foot-soldier, no more, battle-scarred and unsung. But once in a while in the midst of his dreary life, he is brought magnificently alive by a magic wand, maybe only briefly, and he manages in that brief instant to rise above the pettiness, the squalor of his own life. 

The essential humanity of these powerless little men is brought home to the reader with great force.

Is the teller of these stories of a piece with Ray the cinema legend? Yes, without a doubt. 

A deep-running humanism is the common refrain in Ray’s films as well, as any viewer familiar with Ray’s cinematic oeuvre knows. Recall any sequence from Pather Panchali, orThe PostmasterOr think of the demure housewife in Mahanagar who, though she knows she is the sole bread-earner in a largish family, does not think twice before giving up her job for the sake of a colleague’s dignity. 

Recall the King of Halla in Gupi Gain Bagha Bain who, at last free from the evil machinations of his prime minister, erupts in joy and runs along the ramparts of his fortress, threshing his arms about like a child and shouting “I am free”, startling a flight of pigeons that take off from his path with a noisy flutter.

In his stories as in his films, Ray effortlessly weaves tales of perfectly ordinary, indeed insignificant, women and men whose lives are a testimony to the triumph of simplicity and basic goodness over arrogance and selfishness. 

And in his films as in his stories, Ray tells his tales in a brilliantly rich but subdued voice, with great compassion but unsentimentally.

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A Great Film …

Posted on February 15, 2019. Filed under: Movies |

Italy under the Borgias for thirty years, had War, Terror, Murder, Blood but produced Michel Angelo, Learnado, the Rennaisance. Switzwrland had Five Hundred Years of Peace and produced the Cuckoo Clock!

https://thewire.in/film/the-thrid-man-film-noir

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Orson Welles of ‘Citizen Kane’ Fame…

Posted on December 8, 2018. Filed under: Movies |

https://thewire.in/film/orson-welles-netflix-documentary

Netflix occasionally throws up pleasant surprises, and not just in fiction. While most publicity is given to drama series or films, every now and then a documentary is released without much fanfare and watching it can be very rewarding.

One such, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, about the last, abortive attempt by Orson Welles to make a film, is a superb exploration of an artist’s life and creative impulses.

It is a sort of a ‘Lion in Winter’ meditation, as we see the great Welles, once feted but now forgotten, trying hard to make a final film, a swan song that will not just be his greatest but also his most commercially successful.

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Jane Fonda …

Posted on September 21, 2018. Filed under: Movies, Personalities |

Of Course there was Henry Fonda, a wee bit of Peter but there is a Wholesome Lot of Jane Fonda …

First Her Views on Men –

“Men are trained not to be empathic, not to be emotional. So it’s not easy what they’re trying to do. But they have to try to do it! So it doesn’t matter if it’s been two weeks or two years. It just matters what kind of changes they’ve gone through.’

“Why not do what the guys who lose their union jobs in Pennsylvania do? Work at Starbucks, f**k it!’

“Oh, poor top-paid executives who can’t get his job back. F**k it! Sweep the floor at Starbucks until you learn! If you can’t learn, you don’t belong in the boardroom. And there are plenty of women who do belong in the boardroom.”

And the NYT –

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Tikli n Laxmi – A Film on Sex Workers …

Posted on August 12, 2018. Filed under: Movies |

From The Wire – By Aishwarya Shrivastav, a 21-year-old history graduate from the University of Delhi and author of ‘Mouthpiece’.

“Observing on-screen camaraderie between women lifted up my heart. At first, they’re all dismissive of standing up for themselves, but slowly come around to the idea of reclaiming their own selves.

The women express anger, often and freely, but never succumb to sadness. They don’t break down after yet another day of fighting, instead they keep at it, chipping away at their oppression.

All the women in the movie have found dignity and some independence through their work, but still suffer working on others’ rules.

Their lives take a different turn with the entry of Tikli, who first suggests starting a women’s co-operative so they can all get better benefits”.

https://livewire.thewire.in/out-and-about/tikli-and-laxmi-bomb-review/

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Book Review – Love and Husband Sharing …

Posted on May 31, 2018. Filed under: Indian Thought, Movies |

https://thewire.in/books/purushottam-agrawal-padmavat-book-review

 

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Greater than – ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ – Gertrude Bell …

Posted on May 29, 2018. Filed under: Movies, The English, Uncategorized |

“The onset of the First World War hastened the demise of the The Ottoman Empire that had ruled the Middle East for five centuries. Now the colonial powers set their eyes on dividing the spoils”. 

‘Queen of the Desert’ – the Motion Picture – moves to a small room in which British army officers gather around a table with a minister from the War office, the future British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. The officers and Churchill  are looking at a map of the colonial “spoils”.  Churchill asks: “How do we delineate the borders?.  . . Who knows best about the tribes? . . .Who knows best about the Bedouin tribes?”

The officers reluctantly agree among themselves, “That woman”.

https://wallwritings.files.wordpress.com/2017/10/bell.jpeg?w=114&h=150“That woman” is Gertrude Bell, a British archaeologist, writer, traveler, and diplomat, who worked in a time of intense Western colonialism. 

This motion picture rescues Bell from oblivion.

The film ‘Queen of the Desert’, is based on the real-life story of Gertrude Bell  (1868-1926). Nicole Kidman acts the part of a, a humanitarian among those human colonialist scorpions who were roaming the deserts in search of prey and profit.

The difference between Bell and Lawrence? Bell was a woman and a natural diplomat, while Lawrence was an adventurer, romantic author -‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’  and made famous by  David Lean’s film, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’.

Lean’s film made  Lawrence famous while ‘Queen of the Desert’ has been put on the backburner by the Film Industry. Diplomacy, Arab history and colonial exploitation of indigenous populations has little appeal. Gertrude Bell actually cared about the people of the Levant. Her books – and books about her – underscore this.

Gertrude Bell was there when the modern Middle East was formed. Because of her personal and caring knowledge of tribes and their leaders, she was used by the victorious nations after World War I to draw borders and choose leaders who became kings.

But the story of Gertrude Bell violated a narrative written and protected by Zionism as Levant history before 1947 was of little consequence and a period best lef out.

Queen of the Desert was initially screened in 2015 at the prestigious Berlin Film Festival. It was nominated for the festival’s highest award, the Golden Bear. Directed by noted German director Werner Herzog and beautifully photographed on locations in Jordan and Morocco, the film was a natural for American “art house” screenings.

With Nicole Kidman, as the film’s star and a script by Herzog, which examined the role Gertrude Bell played in modern history, yet the film was not distributed in the US. The Desert Queen covers history in the World War I era when Israel did not exist then.. Yet a Nicole Kidman film of that era was shelved for two years.                                                                                   ..

When Queen of the Desert had its limited run earlier this year when it finally surfaced. There was still money to be made so the film now has DVD exposure and is on Netflix and sites like Amazon, began renting or selling copies.

This sensitive film which examines the life of one of the most significant women of the 20th century, lies deep into the archives of film history, a journey noticed by only a few.

https://wallwritings.files.wordpress.com/2017/10/screen-shot-2017-04-14-at-12-54-07.png?w=640&h=356The picture above of Gertrude Bell between Winston Churchill (left) and T.E. Lawrence, was taken in Cairo, Egypt, in the early 1920s.

It is an unfortunate fact of history that this photograph is viewed as one of a future  British Prime Minister, the real “Lawrence of Arabia”, and “that woman”.

One Final Perilous Journey For Gertrude Bell

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Escape Tunnel of ‘The Great Escape’ fame …

Posted on November 30, 2015. Filed under: American Thinkers, Movies, Uncategorized |

Untouched for seven decades, the tunnel used in the Great Escape from a German POW Camp was finally been found this Aug..

The 111-yard passage nicknamed ‘Harry’ by Allied prisoners was sealed by the Germans after the audacious break-out from the POW camp Stalag Luft III in western Poland.

Despite huge interest in the subject, spurred by the film. ‘The Great Escape’ starring Steve McQueen, the tunnel remained undisturbed over the decades because it was initially behind the Iron Curtain and the Soviet authorities had no interest in its significance.

But now British archaeologists have excavated it, and discovered its remarkable secrets. Many of the bed boards which had been joined together to stop it collapsing were still in position.

And the ventilation shaft, ingeniously crafted from used powdered milk containers known as Klim Tins, remained in working order. Scattered throughout the tunnel, which is 30ft below ground, were bits of old metal buckets, hammers and crowbars which were used to hollow out the route.

A total of 600 prisoners worked on three tunnels at the same time. They were nicknamed Tom, Dick and Harry and were just 2 ft square for most of their length.

It was on the night of March 24 and 25, 1944, that 76 Allied airmen escaped through Harry. Barely a third of the 200 prisoners – many in fake German uniforms and civilian outfits and carrying false identity papers – who were meant to slip away managed to leave before the alarm was raised when escapee number 77 was spotted.

Only three made it back to Britain . Another 50 were executed by firing squad on the orders of Hitler, who was furious after learning of the daring escape.

In all, 90 boards from bunk beds, 62 tables, 34 chairs and 76 benches, as well as thousands of items including knives, spoons, forks, towels and blankets, were squirreled away by the Allied prisoners to aid the escape under the noses of their captors.

Although the Hollywood movie suggested otherwise, NO Americans were involved in the operation. Most were British, and the others were from Canada, Poland, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa (all the tunneling team were Canadian personnel with backgrounds in mining.

The latest dig located the entrance to Harry, which was originally concealed under a stove in Hut 104. The team also found another tunnel, called George, whose exact position had not been charted. It was never used as the 2,000 prisoners were forced to march to other camps due to the approaching Red Army approached in January 1945.

Watching the excavation was Gordie King, 91, an RAF radio operator, who was 140th in line to use Harry and therefore missed out. Gordie King, made an emotional return to Stalag Luft III. ‘This brings back such bitter-sweet memories,’ he said as he wiped away tears. ‘I’m amazed by what they’ve found.’

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