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Monuments Men/The Train


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A couple of months ago I read a news article about some recovered artwork, originally stolen in Europe by the Nazi's during WWII. Now, this film comes out and details one of the stories about some of the people responsible for recovering some of this artwork.


Reading about both the article and some reviews of the film, has reminded me of a film I saw on TCM starring Burt Lancaster called, "The Train." Great movie. Interesting back story of changing directors because Burt wanted more action in the film rather than focusing on artistry because he needed more of a guarantee of a successful film to follow a not so successful film.


In the Monument's Men, Cate Blanchett portrays a woman named Rose Valland,?who wrote about her own experiences in France during WWII and her involvement?in keeping these works of art from the hands of the Germans. Her book, "Le front de l'art," was the resource used to produce,"The Train."


I haven't seen the Monuments Men yet, but I'd love to compare the differing/similar perspective of the two films. Has anyone here seen both films?


Edited by: 47songs on Feb 6, 2014 7:13 PM

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*The Train* is probably my favorite Burt Lancaster film (and I like so many of them) . Great action film indeed, I have the dvd, John Frankenheimer did commentary for the whole film , explaining details about each scene. Burt , who was almost 50 years old, did ALL of his own stunts, plus a few that weren't even for his character. Haven't seen the new film yet, I wonder if there will be any kind of similarity in the story line.

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I haven't seen "The Monuments Men" and only know that it is controversial.


Controversial to different people for different reasons:


One perspective from Britain:


"How Hollywood wrote the real Monuments Man out of history: British academic gave his life to protect art from the Nazis... but he doesn't even get a mention in the new George Clooney blockbuster":




Another from Rafael Medoff, director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in Washington, D.C. :


"'The Monuments Men' Shows How America Saved Paintings While Letting Jews Die: Audiences may not feel quite so good about the new George Clooney film once they learn the full story behind WWII art rescue efforts":




The film is based on the book by Robert Edsel:



A film review is here (by Tom Shone of "The Guardian"):



Read a review by Jake Coyle of the AP in which he writes that "The Train" is a "more superior and grittier film" compared to the Clooney flick:


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As is always the case, how much of the film is based on fact, and what is just there as entertainment. The Lancaster film is certainly not about entertainment, unless the only thing the viewer wants is the action of train wrecks and explosions. Lancaster's character and his partners pay a very heavy price to accomplish what, in his mind, is a very questionable goal. His feelings at the end of the film show his disgust about the whole business.

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"With the cunning of sabotage and the soot of the train yard, "The Train" makes a more superior and grittier film."


Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/entertainment/movie-reviews/well-meaning-monuments-men-weighed-down-1.1674106#ixzz2sfbwGJ9U


THAT'S what I wanted to read! Thank you for all the links! I'd recently read a review that said The Monuments Men was the first artistic revelation of this piece of history. I corrected the author by mentioning "The Train." Still, I'm anxious to see Monuments Men to compare them myself.


Edited by: 47songs on Feb 7, 2014 3:48 PM

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No problem. There was an episode of "Hogan's Heroes" from 1966 on the subject - "Art for Hogan's Sake."


"Fact vs Fiction" feature on "The Train" here:



And I've seen "The Train" many times, for those who haven't viewed it, a film review is here:



The subject of looted art is very interesting and full of ironies.


For example, and referring to World War 2, in 1945 the Soviets looted art from Berlin and their conquered areas of Germany.

This stolen art was shipped to Moscow and elsewhere and as of today the Russians refuse to return it or pay remuneration:



Quoting from the article above:

"According to Berlin's Humboldt University, the Soviets plundered more than a million books and thousands of works of art at the end of the war."


The Russians say the looted art was spoils of war and they point to France as an example of why they don't have to return any stolen art. Under Napoleon, the French looted art from all of Europe (including from Russia during Napoleon's ill-fated invasion of 1812):


Since much (much was returned after Napoleon's demise, but much was not) of that stolen art (including art stolen from Russia) is now in the Louvre in Paris, and elsewhere, and the French have no intention of returning it or paying remuneration, why should Russia have to return any stolen art, they argue?


An irony related to "The Train," is that one can wonder how much of the art stolen by the Nazis was originally stolen by the French from other countries?


An irony related to "The Monuments Men" is American looting of art during World War 2, including the "Gold Train":



The article above quotes an American property officer who stated:

"the only difference between the Germans and the Americans in looting was [that] the Germans keep very accurate records, and with the Americans it was free enterprise unchecked."


Anyway, a good start on the history of art looting is here:



Even the British have looted art from all over the once British Empire, and elsewhere. Greece, Egypt, Nigeria, etc. want stolen loot returned from Britain, for example:



The Brits say - no way... In the case of the Elgin Marbles in the article above, the Brits say the treasure is "safer" staying in Britain.


The Greeks have been trying to get stolen art returned for years:



So there you go...


Edited by: RMeingast on Feb 8, 2014 12:29 PM

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According to Clooney one major inspiration for the film was Kelly's Heroes. Yea, the Eastwood war comedy. Clooney said that during the editing process they removed a lot of the over the top jokes because these scenes, while very funny, were taking the movie in a camp direction. He said that when people in the film started dying this type of comedy no longer works.

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I guess the movies ("The Train," "The Monuments Men") do provide a way for people to learn more about the history of looting and the destruction of art works. And it's a subject of current interest, not just related to looted art in Europe and North America.

For example, the Taliban destroyed art in Afghanistan:



And some Timbuktu manuscripts were destroyed in 2013 in Mali, Africa by al_Qaida-allied rebels there:





So the films do have a modern relevance. I don't know, but wouldn't be surprised if Clooney had the above in mind (he's done some activist work in Africa) with his latest film, 'tho it's set in World War 2.


Clooney was also in "Three Kings," a film about American soldiers in Iraq who steal gold that the Iraqis had stolen from Kuwait:



That film is about looted gold but could also have been about looted art.


Suppose you could say the same thing about "Kelly's Heroes":



(Don't know if the gold in the flick above was originally stolen by Nazis or not?)

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THE TRAIN is a superb and taut film that I never tire of watching. Seen it many times. One of the best. After checking out MONUMENT'S MEN on the Rotten Tomatoes movie review site, there is absolutely no blooming way I want to see MM even were it to be free. Terrible reviews.



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This comment isn't directly about either movie, but about Nazis and looting and/or confiscation. I remember reading a book called _Snow Treasure_ , about a bunch of Norwegian kids who carry like $9,000,000 gold out of a Nazi-occupied town on their sleds, right under the noses of the Nazi guards. I was very impressed (obviously, since I remembered it for so long) ! I think it was made into a movie sometime in the 60's or 70's. Supposedly it was based on a true story.

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>Clooney has also cited The Great Escape as another film that influenced The Monuments Men.


Which I would suppose would be an additional sticking point for the Brits, because as you probably know Iz(and maybe the reason you mentioned it), the actual "Great Escape" had no Yanks involved in the stalag escape at all. And thus, would be a similar "rewrite" of history and a similar case to what RMeingast mentioned below here:


>One perspective from Britain: "How Hollywood wrote the real Monuments Man out of history: British academic gave his life to protect art from the Nazis... but he doesn't even get a mention in the new George Clooney blockbuster".


Edited by: Dargo2 on Feb 8, 2014 6:39 PM

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Many of the film reviews mention how traditional the film is. For example,

"The Christian Science Monitor" reviewer states:

"It?s like an over-the-hill gang variant on ?The Dirty Dozen,? except not as much fun as that sounds.":



The reviewer for "Salon" says:

"Clooney's movie is a slow-witted, occasionally agreeable retread of numerous WWII band-of-brothers flicks its director no doubt watched on TV as a 1970s teenager.":



Other reviews at Rotten Tomatoes: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_monuments_men/


Apparently Clooney did have in mind 1960s films like "The Dirty Dozen," "The Great Escape," "Kelly's Heroes" (1970) (and maybe a TV show like "Hogan's Heroes" for all I know...).

And some reviewers compare it, negatively, to the Clooney flick "Ocean's Eleven."

Obviously the film is not going to win any awards.

It's well-intentioned but has too many problems with it.

But I think Clooney tried to make an entertaining movie while dealing with some serious history at the same time.

And for the average moviegoer it may lead to people digging deeper to learn about the history the movie is based on.


There are too many ironies for me. As the Monuments Men were chasing the art stolen by the Nazis, for one example, American soldiers were looting art and other valuables from the Hungarian "Gold Train" (train of valuables the Nazis and Hungarians looted from Hungarian Jews sent to Auschwitz):



To repeat the quote from another post below, an American property officer (Capt. Howard A. MacKenzie) stated:


"the only difference between the Germans and the Americans in looting was [that] the Germans keep very accurate records, and with the Americans it was free enterprise unchecked."


This looting, in the case of the "Gold Train," was mostly kept secret from the American public until 1998. In that year, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States was created to find out what happened to the stolen goods:


In the case of the "Gold Train," the looting by American soldiers was from generals on down in rank.


An official report on the "Gold Train" from the Art Research Staff to the Presidential Commission is here:




Anyway, there's a long history of art looting and destruction from the Romans, to Napoleon, to Hitler, to the present day...


Films like "The Train" and "The Monuments Men" are entertainment that also can inspire people to find out more about the actual history.


Edited by: RMeingast on Feb 9, 2014 1:42 PM

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Films like "The Train" and "The Monuments Men" are entertainment that also can inspire people to find out more about the actual history.


I totally agree and in these days were most movies are empty headed - it's good to see a movie that has something to say about the value of art and civilization and the price we must pay to preserve it.

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It's interesting to read that Clooney was inspired by The Great Escape and/or Kelly's Heroes. To me, it begs the question of whether he's ever seen "The Train."


I have read where an actor or actress will not see an original film if they are remaking it. I wonder if directors feel the same way.


Edited by: 47songs on Feb 10, 2014 7:06 PM

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Has George Clooney ever seen *The Train* ? Good question. You can't assume that even as an actor he (or anyone else ) has seen every film ever made. I would have to believe that during the preparation of this film Clooney, or people he's working with, would have discussed the Lancaster film and maybe even closely screened it. Whether they drew much, if any inspiration from it, we will see.

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Have to assume Mr. Clooney has seen "The Train."

This article (http://newsok.com/george-clooney-teaches-art-history-in-monuments-men/article/3931168) quotes Mr. Clooney:

"Yes, we wanted to make an entertaining film,? Clooney said. ?We were not all that familiar with the actual story (of 'The Monuments Men'), which is rare for a World War II film. ... We thought it was sort of a mix between 'Kelly's Heroes' and 'The Train.' And we wanted to talk about a very serious subject which is ongoing still, and we wanted to make it entertaining. That was the goal. We'll find out.?


I like George Clooney. And it's too bad the film reviews for "The Monuments Men" aren't that great: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_monuments_men/


Live and learn, I guess. He's made other historical films and this one won't be the last, I'm sure.


P.S. Post title refers to an old Canuck novel, and flick: "Who Has Seen the Wind." Just a lame attempt at humour.

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Oh I've seen Monuments Men, it's a terrible bore. The acting is good, and the idea is interesting, but the script really lacks. They did have trouble pulling the film together, thus postponing the release date. Seems they never got it straightened out to me.

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Read the book Monuments Men a few years ago. I'm assuming the movie is about a single "treasure hunt" mission. That's not what these guys did back then. Their real job was to protect/preserve treasures from battle damage not hunting down missing stuff. I haven't seen it but if my single mission theory is correct it's pure Hollywood.There is at least one guy still living whose **** off about not getting any $ but again, if it's pure hollywood I guess he doesn't deserve any.

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