Friday, January 9, 2015

As a six year old film critic... I was pretty damn good

On our Victoria BC  black and white TV set, I watched a lot of WWII combat movies, ordinary film dramas and TV docudrama with my parents at night, when I was between the ages of six to eight.

A few really made a real strong and lasting impression at the time and I recalled enough details to locate a few of the war movies in particular, a half century later.

It turns out a heck of a lot of adults thought they were among the best war movies ever made - thought so then and think so now.

Let's look at two of them.

One was the John Mills Eric Portman sub classic, "We Dive at Dawn" - made in 1943 and still very convincing to most audiences and incidentally also to seasoned UK submariners.

The bits the adults liked/like are also what grabbed me as six year old : even as a kid you can sense the difference between stagy acting and normal life - all the scenes and dialogue are very life like - particularly considering this was made at a time when all war movies were supposed to be 200% moral uplift.

Another movie that gripped me to the core was a simple war movie that again just felt really real to me as a six year old : "A Walk in the Sun".

This was an unusually quiet and little American war film, set in 1943 Italy, released as a print story in 1944, filmed in late 1944 /early 1945 (hence undergoing Defence Department censorship) but not released until 1946.

A platoon lands more or less safely in Sicily and then is assigned to blow up an enemy bridge a six mile walk in the sun away.

I know that I will never forget when the moment when the platoon is strafed for as long as I lived.

I felt as the men felt : all the heat, the dust, the terror, the tired feet, the thirst.

Small children don't know much of the mechanics of submarines, tanks and planes - but they do know verbal and physical cues - body language - they can tell when human dialogue and actions rings true or false.

Even as kids in the Fifties, we boomers could sense the shortfall between elevating talk and weak reality.

So ,the very first story we read in our BC Grade Four reader was about a ditch digger who is just another dirty DP until it turns he was a famous potter back home in Prague and suddenly everybody is fawning over him.

I am not even nine yet - but I got it - right away - even before the teacher obliquely raised it --- that part about middle class Canadian adults suddenly fawning over the formerly despised, when they are revealed to be more cultured than we colonials.

I personally think it was all the elevating talk that destroyed the pre WWII hegemony about modernity for us boomer kids : we might have lived forever with all of modernity's moral shortfalls if we hadn't - at the same time - had the moral uplift hands-across-the-water guff day in and day out to contrast with it ....

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