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Just watched The Monuments Men

by Rob_Boyter / February 21, 2014 5:01 PM PST

and I totally disagree with the critics. I think it offers an explanation to the general public of why art is important, and why it is worth preserving. Just because only two of the team dies isn't a reason to think the movie dull. The Monuments Men are a remarkable testament to the honour and fairness of the whole population of the US, even those who find art irrelevant and not worth any person's life.

Perhaps I might reccommend it to you as a very worthwhile watch when available, but it would be better not to see it cut up by commercials. It actually needs to be paid attention to as a statement of humanity, and man's place in the historical record so far. The most powerful scene, and one which perhaps they should have made more emphatic is the use of flamethrowers to torch much of a mine full of art, hundreds of thousands of works which we will never be able to see and to contemplate, and tens of thousands of lifetimes of the expression of the human soul.

I think it was as good as it could be, given the undramatic nature of their work. It might also give you some insight into why I get so exercised by that nasty little art miser Gurlitt hoarding tens of thousands of works which should be seen by anyone who is moved by them. It really isn't about monetary value, or private ownership, though that has its place. It's about spiritual value, and the truth of the heart and brain and soul, and about the people who went before us. The artists most of all, but the greatness of the US and the Allies (except perhaps the Soviet Union) in the 20th Century. and the tiny greedy man who set the world on fire because of his rank hatred of all mankind.

Rob

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Sometimes
by TONI H / February 21, 2014 6:05 PM PST

the greatest stories in history ARE boring as hell and the movie makers attempt to make them into way more than a documentary, raise expectations to an audience, and then the audience comes away disappointed rather than uplifted over the actual facts. I'm terribly involved in a couple of series playing on the Discovery Channel right now that I find absolutely fascinating.....Castles is one and the other is Mysteries at the Museum. I record every program and watch them early in the morning or late at night when there aren't any interruptions to distract me and I can more appreciate the actual story....each episode has three different castles or museums with an artifact that people would normally not pay attention to even as they visit the museum and the story behind it (such as the small gray box that brought oxygen to the astronauts in Apollo 13 when they would have otherwise died and not made it home....duct tape saved their lives....the movie was exciting but in this series the focus was on the box that was preserved).

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I wish that Canadian Discovery was coordinated with the US
by Rob_Boyter / February 21, 2014 8:58 PM PST
In reply to: Sometimes

one. I do enjoy Mysteries of the Museum (which even includes the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto). A particular favourite is The Secrets of Museum Island featuring The Pergamon Museum and the Neues Museum in Berlin. The Pergamon museum is one of the great examples of 19th century collecting. It features the entire front steps and colonnade on top of the Altar to Zeus and Athena from Pergamon, an Ionic Greek city from the Aegean coast of Turkey. It's quite amazing to see this huge installation indoors, and the freize called the Titanomachy, the battle between the Gods of Olympus and the Titans which is one of the great examples of late 3rd Century Greek sculpture. It was built to celebrate a victory over Celtic invaders who ultimately settled in south-western Turkey in the province called Galatia (the province of the Gauls) who received one or more of the Letters of St. Paul.

Beside that, they also have the Lion Gate from Babylon, more commonly referred to as The Ishtar Gate, made of fired brick and a deep cobalt glaze with lions and dragons and other decoration baked into the bricks.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishtar_Gate displays the installation at the Pergamon Museum.

The Neues Museum displays ancient statuary, but also has some of the modern sculptures destroyed by the Nasties which were discovered buried in the earth near the Neues Museum and discovered during the building of a subway station there.

Nice to share this interest with someone else. Thanks, Toni!

Rob

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I should have added this link to this post
by Rob_Boyter / February 21, 2014 9:04 PM PST
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neues_Museum Egyptian and Pre-historic Art and sculpture.

When I visited in 1968 the battering it took in WW2 was clearly visible. I gather that it was severely damaged "by US bombing" per that Secrets of Museum Island episode, but the contents had been hidden in one of the Flak Towers in Berlin and were thus saved from destruction.

Rob
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What it is...
by Willy / February 21, 2014 10:04 PM PST

As a movie, its so-so its not going to be a blockbuster or super-duper gotta see movie. What it does is provide a topic that wasn't covered before and yet another venue into a WWII theater of operations that became unknown or bypassed. It yet again shows that war is a destroyer of many things to include culture besides life itself.

WWII in the beginning or at least started out that no bombing of cities(dense populace) was allowed other than true military targets. Sure, there may have been mistakes or random hits outside of a proposed area, but generally direct attacks on cities or metro-areas was off-limits. That changed when London got bombed by mistake and RAF retaliated in force and Luftwaffe replied in force as well, this was in the European theater of war. Not so, in the Asian theater of war, that was quickly escalated from any military targets and quickly on to populace areas. Some relevance to religious building/structures may have been excluded but in the time of carpet bombing damage was done to many structures. There may not wanted direct damage but it became so. A clear indication of so-called relevance is the bombing Monte Cassino at least from the Allies side during that time in Europe. -----Willy Happy

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What it does is address the age old question of what is the
by Rob_Boyter / February 23, 2014 6:21 PM PST
In reply to: What it is...

value of Art in culture, and is a painting, or in this case 5 Million stolen art treasures which is what they unearthed in a very short time i.e. less than a year, worth the cost of a life, or a dozen lives or a hundred, or a thousand.

Art is an encapsulation of human experience and civilization at a particular point in time. The point made twice in the film, once at the beginning and once at the end is "The answer is Yes." If you had asked me before I took The Art of Greece and Rome, I'd have given a much less secure answer, but the course opened my eyes to a great deal I hadn't a clue about before.

The Monastery on Monte Cassino issue is a fairly clear example of the error made in assuming the Germans were using it as an observation post, or blaming military incompetence on the presence of a building. First it is clear from what is known from German records of the period and decrypted Enigma ciphers not available at the time that the Germans were not using the Monastery on Monte Cassino as an OP, and that demolishing it allowed them to use it for that person, and the wreckage was a harder obstacle to overcome, because they literally had to fight from rock to rock to dislodge the defenders. The same thing was done in Caen by the British, making their conquest more difficult and costly than if they'd simply worked up a better "House to house" plan rather like Stalingrad.

If you've ever had the pleasure of seeing some of this art in its proper place it is wonderful, assuming you can let the feelings bubble up. It isn't all that easy to actually appreciate art which is frequently a sort of code, well understood at the time of painting, but no longer part of the cultural vocabulary. The placing of a dog in the painting means someting, in this case Freud was wrong, A cigar may be a cigar, but a dog in a 15th or 15th or 17th Century painting, is not just a dog. It may be a symbol for fidelity, or for appetite or for lust, depending.

As an example of this a Japanese ivory carving of a rice straw bale with a tiny rat which can stick its nose out of the bale is actually a symbol of wealth. We think rats are a symbol of uncleanness and disease and revulsion. To the Japanese one only had trouble from rats when one had a surplus of food which therefore had to be stored and was thus plagued by infestation by rodents, i.e. wealth.

Rob

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We saw the movie a few weeks ago, Rob,...
by Paul C / February 23, 2014 8:57 PM PST

...and we were impressed - sort of. George Clooney did play fast and loose with the facts in many cases; for example, the project did not have to be sold to FDR, as he initiated it, perhaps at the urging of Eleanor. Another error that stood out was the apparent finding of the Mona Lisa by Allied troops shown as the credits rolled; in fact, that painting was among a vast number of works that the staff of the Louvre packed up and hid in caves in the French countryside. After the liberation of France, Louvre officials revealed that to the Americans, who happily provided transport and manpower to return those works back to the museum.

The secretary in the film was based on Rose Valland, a remarkable Frenchwoman who used the position she was forced to assume during the Nazi occupation to document the German plunder - as the movie shows - and also to feed that information to the Maquis so that its members would not mistakenly destroy shipments of stolen art being shipped back to Germany.

Your comment on Monte Cassino and Caen is both correct and, IMO, incorrect. In the case of the former, the bombing of the monastery merely provided the Germans many good positions from which to direct fire on the advancing Americans; better that we had simply bypassed the monastery and let it wither on the vine. In the latter case, however, Caen served as a magnet drawing more and more German units to it, so that when the Patton's Third Army launched its attack (Operation Cobra) many miles to the south of Caen - in the area around St. Lo - it met almost no resistance, and the Allies finally had the breakout from Normandy they had sought. That offensive began on 20 July 1944 - the day that the assassination plot against Hitler was executed at Rastenburg in East Prussia. I don't much believe in coincidences, so I think that given the degree of Allied penetration of the Enigma cipher system as well as the number of senior German officers who were willing to do anything to rid themselves of Hitler, that Omar Bradley and George Patton consciously chose that date for Cobra so as to take advantage of the chaos in the German command structure they knew would follow the Rastenburg assassination attempt.

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