All posts tagged “Nazis

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Lacombe Lucien, Louis Malle (1974)

Lucien is a young farm hand in rural France, hardworking, not too bright. It’s 1944 and the Allies are advancing from Normandy. If Lucien hadn’t had the bad luck to live at such a fraught moment in history, he probably would have just gone on shooting rabbits, ploughing the fields, and been just fine. Alas.

Lucien’s little village is under strict and orderly occupation, but panic and hysteria lies just beneath the surface of every interaction. The Jews in hiding fear deportation, the collaborators fear their time is nigh, the resistance fighters fear discovery.

Lucien tries to join the resistance and is rebuffed on account of his youth. In an adolescent dudgeon, he unwittingly betrays the local resistance leader to the French auxiliary to the Gestapo. These latter craven and dissolute bastards take him on as a kind of mascot.

The exquisite subtlety of the story has to do with Lucien’s fundamental misunderstanding of how power works. For example, he thinks he has power over a girl, but when other guys can dance with her and he doesn’t know how, it confuses and enrages him.

His most dangerous misunderstanding concerns that girl and her family, who are Jewish and in hiding in the town. He thinks the power he has from the sanction of the collaborators enables him to force the family to do his will, but he also thinks he has the power to protect them.

The movie resonates at this historical moment, where we see a lot of people acting as if being in power at the moment entitles you to do whatever brutal and stupid things you like. Even things which in the long or not-so-long run are going to bring woe mainly to yourself.

Devastating but totally understated, with gorgeous performances throughout. Watch it.

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Black Sea, Kevin Macdonald (2014)

x900Longtime readers know I have a thing for submarine movies. It’s a subgenre (ha) with such a specific set of conventions that watching the movies is almost like reading sonnets; you marvel to see how the author finds freedom within the boundaries. This isn’t one for the ages, but it has its moments of interest. Typical motifs include:

– The guy who’s never been on a submarine before
– Uncontrolled dive and ensuing tension over whether the hull will collapse, punctuated by bolts shooting out of the hull sporadically
– Captain exhibits savant-like ability to navigate through narrow passage (cf The Hunt for Red October)
– Crew threatens mutiny
– Saboteur on board
– The old rustbucket sub turns out to be more durable than everyone expected
– Gruff but incredibly competent and creative mechanic keeps engine running against all odds
– Having to shut compartment doors on still-living crew members, guaranteeing they’ll drown, in order to save the ship

Less formulaic aspects:

– This isn’t a war movie or a sci-fi movie, which are by far the two most prevalent types of sub movies. It’s a movie about undersea salvage. I can’t think of another.
– Escape suits. I don’t remember ever seeing escape suits in a sub movie before.
– Businessmen screwing over workers. I can’t recall any other sub movies I’ve seen that have put me in mind of Marx.
– Divers going outside the sub to move around on the sea floor. That’s more unusual than you’d expect.

Pretty relentlessly grim and dark movie with an excess of turns for the worse and not a good one for the claustrophobic to watch, even by sub movie standards, but a worthy little bit of filmmaking nonetheless.