Saturday, February 08, 2014

"The Monuments Men": Geroge Clooney's artists-at-war epic is a bit bland

George Clooney can get what he wants in Hollywood, including the resources of two major studios (Columbia and Fox),  Studio Baselberg in Germany, and further facilities in the UK, to make his somewhat fluffy feel-good movie set in the end of World War II.
That movie is “The Monuments Men”, who were a group of artists or auteurs recruited by the US Army to find art stolen by the Nazis and prevent the Nazis from destroying it as they retreated.  For me, it might make a good pairing for the DVD I watched and reviewed Thursday (“The Statement”). 
Some of the men got direct commissions, and sent through a quick officer basic in England first.  Maybe the concept is an illustration of the ultimate commandeering of all kinds of talent to win a war. 

Much of the missing art work (and gold bullion) is found in hidden mines, the locations of which the men determine by ground intelligence, interviewing townspeople (looking like this one on a model railroad in PA).  Author JD Salinger did similar ground intelligence after DDay during WWII, according to a biographical film about him (Sept. 20, 2013 here).  At the end, the men have to get a few last treasures out before the Russians (aka the communists) get it.   
The style of the film is a bit superficial and cute, which undercuts the tragedy when two of the men die in sniper ambushes late in 1944. 
The film makes the point that the Nazis wanted everything. They not only wanted to conquer the territory of other peoples, they wanted to destroy any history that other peoples had existed.  There are some curious scenes showing the Nazi’s model of the art museum they had planned for their fuehrer.

I can take this personally. Imagine if an enemy wanted not only to exterminate me, but to destroy all my work so I would be forgotten.  Protecting the body of one’s lfie’s work can become equivalent to protecting one’s own life.
Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and Bob Balaban lead the cast of middle aged soldiers.

The official site is here.

Both studios “for-went” their flashy musical signatures to let Alexandre Desplat’s music score start immediately, but I have heard better from this composer.
Despite the bland previews (note that the film did not screen during the awards season), the film nearly sold out at the Angelika Mosaic in Merrifield VA on Saturday afternoon opening weekend.

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