Category Archives: World War Two

Whicker’s War.

Alan Whicker, that mustachioed gentleman traveller, the original dapper vagabond. It was in the last great daring crusade that he honed his craft as the director of cameramen of the Army Film and Photo Unit (AFPU), or the “Army Film and Punishment Unit”. This two-part documentary is cracking. We seldom get the filmmakers as subject matter, the images of war taken for granted (our YouTube pleasures). Their sole purpose was to document. It’s our record of that struggle, the spearhead evidence offered to new generations. Their weapons were film reel.

Whicker talks of the danger of seeking that ‘perfect shot’. You may get it, but that entails being up close. And then you’re dead. Only Oliver Stone’s Salvador (1986) comes to mind here, *the* photojournalism masterwork.

N.B. More than half of Whicker’s team were killed or wounded.

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Return to Malta.

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Sliema. 

I actually saw some of Malta this time. It was another story two years ago, my most salient memory then of pissing my pants mid-conversation with a lesbian volleyball player from Berlin. It wasn’t because she was particularly amusing; I just forgot to physically transport myself to the bathroom (ah, those were the glorious melted days). Anyway, I was on a quest to right my wrongs. I didn’t pack nappies but made an executive decision to cut back on the Southern Comfort.

In Malta, buildings are yellow. I don’t know why this is. Regardless, yellow contact lenses will accompany you throughout your stay. You may even listen to ‘Colours’ by Donovan when the time feels appropriate.


More yellow was found on the rooftops. Puffing an e-cig on the hotel roof whilst watching a documentary about the Battle for Malta in WWII is officially my best breakfast yet of 2017. I imagined some wee local ducking under a deckchair as a Stuka dive bomber flew overhead circa 1941, and thanked the heavens I was born in the ’80s.

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Low point:

Listening to a musical troupe of Irish women on a ‘hen’ trip strangling the proverbial Bagpuss each morning with synchronised ‘singing’ was not enjoyable. I meet them once, scowling at the creatures in the hallway on the Friday morning. I hear them, though. A lot. Absolute racket. How and why hotels tolerate such species I will never know. My ears bleed so much my legs begin to get affected. I hop in a taxi to the pub.

 

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A hero taxi driver rescuing me from the ‘singing’. 

Highlight:

The Saturday was vaguely cinematic. I felt like one of those alienated characters in an Antonioni movie as I walked around the island with a bottle of water and a hip flask. I didn’t have a conversation with a single person, and I didn’t mind. I arrived back to the hotel and smoked a cheap cigar on the balcony before napping under the sunset. One of life’s little moments of pretension … punished immediately with mosquito bites. My leg is that of a leper for the next week. Peaks and valleys and all that.

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Kolberg (1945) – last looney propaganda piece of the Third Reich.

Kolberg (1945) is frankly bonkers.

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The most expensive German film of World War II at eight million marks, and shot between October 1943 to August 1944, this monstrosity depicts the defence of the eponymous fortress town against French troops at the height of the Napoleonic Wars (1807). It’s a kind of metaphor for German fortunes after the failures of Stalingrad and Kursk; with strategic initiative lost, the remainder of the fight on the Eastern Front became a series of attritional, reactive operations with no chance of success.

The extras comprised 187,000 people and 50,000 soldiers, apparently the second-highest cast of all time behind Gandhi (1982).

The city of Kolberg itself was declared a fortress town a mere month after the film’s opening, this consisting of regular showings in Berlin whilst air raids pummelled the capital.

Imagine the ideological fanaticism of a regime that, as ultimate annihilation beckoned, it still felt the need to plough such ludicrous resources into a movie of epic undertaking, resources that could have been of immeasurable human and material value in the war effort. This Nazi-opus Gone with the Wind (1939) just serves to highlight the tenuous grip on reality exhibited in the last years of the Third Reich, and an overbearing emphasis on *will* as the essential component in turning the tide of war.

Further reading:

http://militaryhistorynow.com/2015/04/29/kolberg-the-third-reichs-cinematic-swan-song/

 

 

 

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Verisimilitude on the Eastern Front.

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I’ve always wondered about this one, and have no way to verify whether it’s a legitimate piece of footage or not. It appears to be shot on the Eastern Front, capturing brutal house-to-house fighting between the Red Army and the Wehrmacht. Stalingrad, perhaps? I know re-enactments were commonplace, and especially right after battles. It’s an eerie proposition, though, that a soldier’s passing would one day be played back in an Edinburgh slum on a Friday evening, the viewer drinking Southern Comfort from a ThunderCats mug.

Any further info welcomed.

1:32 on the clip.

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