Friday, June 06, 2014

D-Day + 70

70th Anniversary of D-Day today. As always, Sam Fuller provides the imagery.

I have given the Second World War somewhat short shrift here, in my occasional historical writing - mostly film stuff, when I have written about it. There's probably a lot more where that came from - it's obviously a rich vein of material for filmmakers. I haven't written so much about the direct history for a couple reasons - one, that WWII is very heavily covered in the popular media (if not well). I write about the Civil War and The Great War at least partly because it's harder to find material on those wars - I write it partly to counter their relative invisibility. Though also because if I want to learn more, I have to read books, and if I read books, I spend more time thinking about the subject matter (rather than the form, which tends to draw me when I write about films), and writing about it. And, of course, because the Civil War is having its 150th anniversary, and WWI its centenary. The dates drive a desire to immerse myself in the history a bit more.

But today is D-Day, 70 years later, and worthy of a comment. On the movies, I suppose - Fuller, in particular, is the master, his Omaha Beach sequence about as perfect as war movies get. Love, hate, action, violence, death; in one word - emotion. You see similar sequences (men blowing the wire on the beach) in other D-Day films, but they don't have Fuller's precision - something like the Longest Day (which is a pretty darned good movie, for all that) can't reproduce the sand level point of view Fuller gets. There are reasons - partly the fact that he was there; partly because of the work he does to build up the emotional connections of the men in the squad, and make that pay off in the combat sequences; and partly because he has such a true eye for detail, and how to construct a sequence.

But that's all right. D-Day is part of such a vast operation, it is very difficult to get a grasp on all of it. All of it is fascinating - I can't do justice to the whole of it, so am inclined to honor the best depiction of a part of it I know. It was a monumental accomplishment - and obviously a lot of it done in the months building up to the landings - though like so much of warfare, it comes down to a guy crawling far enough forward to set off a bomb under the enemy's defenses. Repeated (some variation on the theme) thousands of times by thousands of men up and down the coast.

Quite a thing.

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