[1929/30] All Quiet On The Western Front

It’s hard to name Western propagandists whose message advocated for war. During times just after intensive global strife, particularly war, lots of the filmmakers sought to describe the horror of war and its lasting effects on the people war devours. Even when one side defeats an enemy, lots of the film made after World War II and Vietnam chose to downplay the idea of victory. The message gleams clear from the genre–there are no winners in war, but losers and broken men.

There’s no indifference in war. Even Leni Riefenstahl, a German woman fascinated and adored by Nazis, but never officially charged as a Nazi, never made “pro-war” films. Ostensibly, she made movies with titles like Der Sieg des Glaubens (“The Victory of Faith”), and her twin masterclasses, Triumph des Willens (The Triumph of the Will) and Olympia (documenting the 1936 Munich Olympics). Close readers know there’s a deeper story to her work, to sow discord for one group and glory for another. This in and of itself isn’t problematic. In fact, most chronicles of war take a stance on an output–death toll–or outcome–a changed national jingoism. Even the documentaries, supposedly full of fact and nothing else, are also full of tone and timbre. There’s no such thing as objectivity. You know how you know? Ask five people to define what the word “objective” means.

This take is not defending Leni Riefenstahl, the propaganda she and her, er, cronies produced, or any of the outputs or actions of war. It is worth noting, however that German propaganda seemed especially fiery and pugnacious, especially between the two world wars, inclusive. The spewed lots of pro-might campaigns, ruthlessness toward apologists, and calls to arms to preemptively position the Fatherland toward a position of power. Odd then the timing of All Quiet on the Western Front, a perfectly placed propaganda picture released as Wiemar was on its last legs. It delivered a clear message and implied a warning to the next decade: war is not glory; war is not might; war is death; and war is fright. Continue reading

[1929/30] Disraeli

Disraeli is the first film I’ve had to work somewhat circuitously to find and watch because of how old it is and how it has fallen through the proverbial crack in terms of modernization. Barring some deep web hunting, this film has never been released digitally, which meant that I would need both the VHS physical copy and the physical place to play the film. Without university support, I think that both of these would have been far more difficult than my time allows. Several key questions continue to circle the eventual completion and thesis attention of The Academy Nominees Project:

  1. For films that have been mostly lost or partially archived on the West Coast, is it worth the posterity to travel? I will most likely leave these films for last and with 400+ posts under my belt, I hope that credence alone will allow me to get into UCLA’s film archive. It’s a big if.
  2. In a quasi-corollary, should I not be able to complete this, is synopsis and gravitational review work enough from which to draw succinct opinion? The obvious answer is no, because the aesthetic of watching the film adds as much to the theory as the actual film, but the practical answer is yes because no one really reads this (yet!) and I’m certain the films in question are not particularly groundbreaking – thought they may be.
  3. The point of ANP is to demonstrate a cohesive, approximately 300,000 word grand thesis on the relevance of film to culture, contemporary societal behavior and idea breathing through the near hundred years of Academy presence. I’m not sure it means anything, but I’m also not sure it doesn’t either, so onward.

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