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 Posted: Fri Mar 28th, 2008 07:39 am
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Kernow-Ox
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I was thinking about mentioning 'Birth of a Nation'. As with 'Triumph of the Will', regardless of the film's politics or attitudes it is a milestone in the history of cinema worthy of attention as well as interesting reflection on how these societies saw themselves. I have yet to watch either, mind you.

Roger Ebert's review is worth reading:
< http://tinyurl.com/c6y2f> [rogerebert.suntimes.com]



 Posted: Fri Mar 28th, 2008 03:39 pm
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booklover
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Kernow-Ox,

I had an opportunity to watch both films and both have powerful, if incorrect, messages. If you want to watch BOAN, I would recommend the restored version, which is in sepia-tone and not black and white. A shortened version of Triumph of the Will is available on DVD, but if you can find the entire film, I would recommend it over the abridged version.

Best
Rob



 Posted: Sat Mar 29th, 2008 01:45 am
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JoanieReb
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"I can't verify it but perhaps they were playing the Jaunting Irish Car or the Irish Volunteer, thr former being the tune the Bonnie Blue Flag was based on and the latter a Federal tune set to the same melody."

Thank you, David.  I don't own a copy of the movie, so I did a google search to see if anyone else had thought it was the case, and I am not alone.  Here's one of a few comments on it:

* When the 54th is returning from its first battle and entering their camp, the Yankee camp band is playing the "Bonnie Blue Flag", which was closer to being the Confederate national anthem then the marching song, "Dixie." I seriously doubt that a Yankee band would play either, however, Lincoln after Lee's surrender asked the military band to play Dixie for him at the White House.

(http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forums/archive/index.php?t-48488.html)

Even if one of the alternative tunes was playing, most people whom watch the movie would hear "Bonnie Blue Flag", so I think this was just a goof in the movie, or perhaps even someone's little joke:D.

Learning the origin of BBF was really interesting.  An Irish melody, I take it?  Who woulda thunk!

Last edited on Sat Mar 29th, 2008 01:55 am by JoanieReb



 Posted: Sat Mar 29th, 2008 01:46 am
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JoanieReb
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Kernow-Ox,

I enjoyed the review that you posted.  I find it truly amazing, from a cinematic viewpoint,  that this movie was made in 1915.  The clips from BoaN that the documentary showed, and the list of ground-breaking cinematic advances, were really amazing to me.  I couldn't believe the battle scene was from 1915!  Really liked this quote frome the review:

 "...allow me to rewind to a different quote from James Agee: "The most beautiful single shot I have seen in any movie is the battle charge in 'The Birth of a Nation.' I have heard it praised for its realism, but it is also far beyond realism. It seems to me to be a realization of a collective dream of what the Civil War was like..."

I am going to make it a priory to see it now, as it certainly seems deserving of study on many levels, for better or worse. 

Last edited on Sat Mar 29th, 2008 02:28 am by JoanieReb



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 Posted: Tue Apr 1st, 2008 07:21 pm
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susansweet
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Joanie when you watch Birth of a nation watch for certain "blacks" that are sooo whites in blackface.  One has polka dotted shorts on .   The film though has so many amazing shots .  It is a classic film worth watching.  Double feature, watch it then watch the General with Buster Keaton . 

Susan



 Posted: Wed Apr 2nd, 2008 03:57 pm
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David White
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Duncan:

reference to Andersonville
after the retreat of Sibley


I think several movies make that mistake, including The Horse Soldiers



 Posted: Fri Apr 11th, 2008 10:36 pm
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Kernow-Ox
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I've finally watched 'The Birth of a Nation'. I am restricting my comments and initial impressions to the first part of the film. What follows is a semi-coherent immediate reaction. There might be the odd spoiler, so if you don't wish to know which side won the Civil War you should look away now. No apologies for either the length of the post or its rambling nature.

Most importantly, I should have taken Booklover's advice and ensured the version of 'The Birth of a Nation' I obtained was tinted. Certain scenes would probably been even more memorable tinted than in black and white. It's worth checking this beforehand, as now I have to track down a different version to see what I've missed out on.

The review I linked to above was not misleading: the battle sequence is worth the entrance fee alone. It's not just that it is monochrome and thus creates the idea of Matthew Brady's work coming to life. Nor is it the mere fact of the silence of the piece, excluding the orchestral core, that makes it memorable. The battle by the river in Keaton's 'The General' is also silent, but is memorable more for both the steam train and for being the only film I've watched to get sight gags out of sniper fire. What works is the sense of scale.

In the re-enactment of Pickett's Charge in 'Gettysburg', filmed in colour, with both sound and booming soundtrack, our attention is drawn to individuals or particular events in each shot. For much of the battle in 'BOAN', however, the soliders are little more than dots that stop moving. There is so much to take in, it's really hard to concentrate on just one part. Yet to maintain interest, we do get close-ups of individuals, of corpses, and of the worried Cameron family back home. Moreover, unlike 'Gettysburg', the soldiers look like they've been on starvation rations for months. Their desperation whilst in the trenches is visible and, more importantly, believable (I will defer to others as to the quality or cut of their uniforms).

The only bit that doesn't work for me, other than a gormless but surprisingly invulnerable bugler, is where the 'Little Colonel' gives a dying Unionman a drink from his canteen just prior to leading a charge. I can forgive the dramatic and sentimental necessity of having the Northern son die next to the Southern son, but that is behind a copse rather than just outside one's trench prior to an attack.

There is a dreamlike, if surprsingly honest (those mangled corpses we see briefly in cuts serve their grim purpose) quality to its portrayal of war, but the true cinematic highlight is the burning of Atlanta. Yes, it's clearly a cardboard cut out. But superimposing ghostly shadows of troops on the march over it makes it one of the most haunting scenes I've seen. I know need to see the tinted version, as I can picture vibrant red and oranges rather than murky grey.

For me, the most touching elements in the film concern the relationship of the daughters to their brothers. We see the usual excited recruit happily embracing his proud younger sister, but just as he leaves the frame she turns round to their mother in tears. I really can imagine such a scene occurring, and not just in 1861. Similarly, the extended take in which the younger southern sister tries to beautify her war-torn plain dresses with raw cotton prior to the homecoming of her surviving brother was also very moving, especially when compared to his rags and war-weary look.

On a lighter note, they appear to have dug up Lincoln's corpse to play the President, and Ringo Starr makes a suitably leary sentinel at the hospital. The waxwork of Robert E Lee is far upstaged by the more plausible Grant. Oh, and despite the accurate 'facsimile' of Ford's Theatre, we're still left in the dark as to whether 'Our American Cousin' is actually worth watching. The first part of 'The Birth of a Nation', however, most certainly is.



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 Posted: Thu Apr 24th, 2008 10:38 pm
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CleburneFan
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Southern Son wrote: Guys, I've laughed at the actor who plays Chamberlain's brother in Gettysburg and GAG has a Southern accent. He is supposed to be from Maine!!
I have to watch "Gettysburg" again. I hadn't noticed the mistake about Chamberlain's brother. My mother is from Maine. I can hear a Maine accent a mile away. I need to check tosee if the accent is indeed Southern or "Northern." How does the guy who plays Chamberlain do?



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