Monday, January 09, 2012

George Clooney's Next Movie Could Be Monumentally Awesome

"South Park" witticism aside, I've always thought that the "George Clooney is soooo smug!" thing is a little overstated and probably has less to do with his "attitude" and more to do with his actual accomplishments - he really is that good an actor, he really is also a damn good director, he really does have that good an eye for screenplays and he really is aging more gracefully than you probably will. Damn him.

In any case, he's setting up his next writer/director/star project; and it's one I've been waiting for: an adaptation of Robert M. Edsel's "The Monuments Men."

The so-called "Monuments Men" remain one of the great unsung stories of World War II heroism, and it's easy to see how their story appeals to Clooney's well-established aesthetic, topical and even socio-political sensibilities - it's period drama with a (potential) dash of action/adventure about the importance of preserving art and culture, whose heroes were primarily educators and intellectuals as opposed to "regular joe" men-of-action.

Officially formed in 1943 on the orders of General Eisenhower himself, the Monuments, Fine Arts & Archives Program of the Allied armies were set up on the premise that restoring (and preventing further destruction of) Europe's artistic and cultural heritage during the war was a vital component of the Allied efforts. Select groups of art historians, professors and other experts were dispatched to areas of conflict (often behind enemy lines and ahead of ground-troops) with orders to help hunt down and properly catalogue/return art-treasures stolen by the Nazis AND to ensure that priceless statues and architectural works were not seriously damaged in bombing raids. It's hard to imagine such an effort being mounted today - the outcry from both the culture-hating Tea Party ("wasteful spending!! only ELITES care about art!!!") and likely also a good deal of the Left ("Save people, not paintings!!!") would be defening.

Clooney's film will apparently focus on the hunt for stolen/looted artworks in Nazi strongholds following D-Day, but I'd hope they squeeze in some of the combat-period scenarios: One of the MFAA's most dramatic successes was the re-taking of Florence - where precision-mapmaking by Monuments Men experts allowed Allied planes to bomb the Nazi occupation-forces into submission while avoiding damage to a remarkable number of priceless buildings, statues, frescos, etc. This was actually a subtle plot-point in "Inglorious Basterds" - we learn, during the Nazi propaganda movie about his actions, that Frederick Zoeller (the seemingly-sympathetic German sniper) was able to maintain his position because the American general had been ordered not to destroy the famous tower which he (Zoeller) was using as a sniper's-nest.


Joe said...

Big Clooney fan here. We have him to thank for great films like Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Good Night and Good Luck. And as someone who actually studied World War II academically, I always like to see the lesser known operations and effects of the war get some much-needed attention.

The Monuments Men reminds me of the last time I visited the motherland (Italy). I went to the abbey at Monte Cassino, site of some extremely bloody battles during WWII. The abbey itself was actually destroyed by Allied bombing during the war, on the mistaken belief the Germans were using it as a fortification. This required direct approval from the C-in-C of Allied Forces Italy because of standing orders to avoid destruction to landmarks of historical and cultural significance.

Sadly, unknown to the Allies, the Germans had made an agreement with the Benedictine monks not to use the abbey: one of the German paratrooper commanders was himself a lay Benedictine brother, and had also convinced the monks to move their irreplaceable relics and manuscripts to the Vatican before the battle. The only direct victims were civilian refugees who were using the abbey for sanctuary, and the ruins ended up being better fortifications for the German paratroopers than the abbey itself would have been. The abbey was rebuilt after the war; the current abbey is the 4th to stand on the site.

Sylocat said...

They're finally making a movie about these guys? HELL YEAH!!!

Tom said...

Touching on similar topics, albeit in a darker way perhaps, John Frankenheimer's "The Train" starring Burt Lancaster and Paul Scofield.

It's a fictional account of the French resistance trying to prevent a German train of priceless works of art from leaving France with the Allied liberation at it's heels.

M said...

While Robert Edsel gets top billing because of his credentials, the book was actually written by Louisvillager and all-around great guy Bret Witter. Bret was also responsible for the very successful "Dewey: The Library Cat," which sounds like a trainwreck of a book but was actually really compelling (for a cat book-- yes, I still have to say that). Bret was really humble about Monument Men last time we talked to him, but when we heard the story of the book my roommate said, "Dude, someone's going to make a movie out of that."


I'd like to note that Clooney is a Kentucky man too.

Mads said...

I wanna watch this as a movie directed by clooney