Peter Jackson, Oscar winning Director from the Lord of the Rings film series said about his latest project, the remarkable WWI documentary They Shall Not Grow Old, that he wanted for people to see this and think about their own families and who participated in the Great War. Jackson was approached in 2014 from the British Imperial War Museum to make an “original and new” film with only actual footage from the archives. He asked to see some of the footage, and we have all seen it. The grainy, black and white footage with soldiers marching way too quickly with herky-jerky motions was what he found and he asked about bringing this to Park Road studios in New Zealand to see what they could do. The results were amazing.
Jackson decided to get involved with this possibility for new and improved footage. It was cleaned up, slowed down, colourized and made part of a stunning story of actual soldiers who participated. Trailer:
Peter Jackson on the process of restoration:
Jackson and his team poured over 100 hours of footage and 300 hours of audio recordings. They have condensed it all into a very watchable and moving story that tells the story of an average British soldier on the front lines. From recruiting at ages from 15yo and up to the training and then deployment to the front. Then to battles and war conclusion it is all addressed in vivid detail. Black and white to begin, and then moving to updated footage complete with full sounds (including live ammunition blasts and gun shot). It is moving. It is must-viewing for those who wish to pass along and teach the next generation. He didn’t talk about many other tangential stories that could have been told like Women in the War and their contribution, the Battle on the Sea, etc. This was done on purpose.
For me, these were remarkable young men who saw this as their duty as British citizens. They wanted to push “Jerry” back into their respective Axis countries. The living conditions were atrocious. And 100 years later where we have so many paralyzed by fear of germs, and won’t touch anything in the public or eat anything that is “expired” – this will be eye opening. Humans survived month after month in disgusting and deplorable conditions and managed to survive. The soldiers also came to respect those on the other side who suffered just as badly as they did. Together they defended their country and kept a terrible force at bay (at least for thirty years).
This film is in limited release, and there are performances at Cineplex in Toronto today (January 21st) at a few select theatres. The performance I saw had additional footage from Peter Jackson with an introduction and then a 30 minute Making Of segment. It was a project for him to honour his own grandfather who was injured in the War, and was never the same dying too young. My full theatre stayed late and didn’t move. Catch this if you can if you have any interest in history, humanity or the War. This will be a film that can be seen for generations to come. I want to take a quick moment to thank my friend Rhea for bringing this film to my attention. She knows I like history and war history in particular and sent me a link about the screenings. I am glad that this did not pass me by! Thanks.
On Netflix I saw the BBC series, sponsored by Netflix called Bodyguard. It stars Robb Stark actor from Game of Thrones, Richard Madden. He won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a series. He was excellent here, and this was a political thriller with twists and turns that kept the viewer guessing. Also like Game of Thrones there are surprising plot turns that will make one wonder they will go next. It is a six part series that feels a little bit like the first season of Homeland. Well worth a watch if you crave something to binge over the next little while.
Finally a word or two about the Golden Globe Best Foreign Film and Best Director Winner Alfonso Cuaron for Roma. Roma is currently on Netflix. I watched this with eager anticipation as the buzz has been very high for this film. At the completion (it took me over two days to complete) I was numb and confused as to what all the fuss was, and is, about. Yes, this film is beautifully shot in black and white, and depicts the times in Mexico in the early 1970s. From the old cars, to the dress, to the political climate it has been all painfully reconstructed. I honestly cannot imagine the coordination that would have been done to get a late scene in the streets of the city from the vantage point of an office building when a demonstration turns violent. There is a wide pan in a large window that would have been painstaking. I respect that. But in terms of hours spent watching this story, it didn’t grab me. The story is plain enough as we follow a household with a doctor, wife and four children and a few of their household servants. There is an event that changes the dynamics within the household, both for the main owners and also for the servant (one in particular). Then the story moves forward with deeper meaning in various scenes than what I can grasp from a first viewing. As the credits roll, I think to myself “Is that it?” Apparently it is.
In a quick text exchange with Alison, she says “I didn’t love it. It’s well shot but if you have to watch a movie really about nothing, I preferred Kiss of the Serpent.” (Italics added by me for emphasis). Now I haven’t watched Kiss of the Serpent, but I am not sure that even this recommendation makes me seek it out. Truth is for me that this was slow. I was not engaged in it. There are things like the dog shit that obviously have much greater meaning than I attribute to it. And there is a kung fu scene, which just makes me scratch my head for any subtle significance, beyond what is one’s first impression at seeing it. This film will inevitably get Oscar nominations, maybe even further Oscar wins. Cuaron won the Best Director for his film Gravity with Sandra Bullock. This is for the film snob to enjoy – and although I can be accused of being one myself, this doesn’t do it for me on any level. However pretty or well shot a movie is, it still needs a good story well told. There are some exceptions to this, Malick films come to mind that are more experiences and literally moving pictures, images and art. But this doesn’t rise to that level. I cannot recommend and I do this knowing that I will be in the minority.