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The Monuments Men (2014)
'Monuments Men' was the nickname given to approximately 345 men and women enlisted during WWII by the multi-national Allied Army's Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFAA) Program historically renowned for its impressive recapture and return of Europe's culturally significant artifacts stolen by Hitler. Mainly comprised of arts experts and architectural engineers deemed unfit for service, the program apparently grew from Metropolitan Museum of Art director Francis Taylor's advocacy against the indiscriminate destruction of important private and national art collections, monuments and religious icons during wartime bombing raids throughout Europe. The MFAA was initially tasked by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943 as a kind of preservation advisory and repair squad of the Allied Forces, but its purpose soon turned to hunting down priceless masterpieces looted and hidden by the Nazis until Germany's defeat in 1945.
In 1961, highly decorated French Resistance spy Rose Valland published Le front de l'art, chronicling her time as curator of Vichy France's Nazi-plundered Musée du Jeu de Paume in Paris. Cate Blanchett's role in The Monuments Men movie as feisty Parisian Claire Simone is based on Valland. Pretty well all the character names in this picture have been changed from their factually-inspired counterparts.
This film is loosely adapted from Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, the second book on the subject by War Art historian and American author Robert Edsel, founding president and CEO of the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art established in 2007. According to the foundation's website, Missouri Senator Roy Blunt introduced Bill S.1862 to the US Senate in 2013, proposing collectively honouring the actual Monuments Men with the Congressional Gold Medal to be preserved on public display at the Smithsonian Institute. Its corresponding Bill H.R.3658, currently before the United States House of Representatives, cites there were only five surviving members of the MFAA as of December 2013.
In many ways, The Monuments Men
plays out like a sanitized, fish-out-of-water bygone rib tickler
set during wartime that primarily uses war's intensely brutalized
landscape as a non-invasive backdrop. It feels trite. Much less
a gritty, compelling quest than Saving Private Ryan (1998), this
is essentially a family friendly, art-centric shadow of Kelly's
Heroes (1970). Sure, the war in Europe is reaching its end by
the time Clooney and his not-so dirty half-dozen boot camp civilians
land at Normandy, but there's a weird disconnect between this
movie's obvious commemoration of the real people who actually
risked their lives to retrieve and protect those Treasures of
the Art World, and the predominant lack of either mortal threat
or overwhelming purpose experienced or expressed by the majority
of this picture's characters. Even when they do face loss - more
than once - there's no compelling enough reason given for them
to continue hunting for museum Michelangelos and saving those
private Renoirs. Worse is when Hitler later orders his retreating
forces to destroy the artwork, and the Clooney Crews desperately
dull reactions further fail to nail its significance in terms
of value easily relatable in a contemporary world, where artistic
creativity seems measured by how well an infant copy-and-pastes
a Mona Lisa jpeg from Google to Blogger. Just sayin'.. (Read
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