The Thin Red Line (1998)

Three scouting soldiers look out at the ridge ahead. A cloud moves away, and light hits the grass.

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 11.06.50 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 11.06.55 PM


Matthew Hendley | “‘Help us to Secure a Strong, Healthy, Prosperous and Peaceful Britain’: The Social Arguments of the Campaign for Compulsory Military Service in Britain, 1899-1914” | 2001

William Le Quex The Invasion of 1910

Image from William Le Quex’s anti-German invasion fantasy The Invasion of 1910 (1906), a phenomenal bestseller.
“COPY OF THE ‘DAILY BULLETIN’ OF THE LEAGUE OF DEFENDERS. […] Those chosen knew that their last hour had come. Some clasped their hands and fell upon their knees, imploring pity, while others remained silent and stubborn patriots.”

Summary: The National Service League was a pressure group which argued the case for compulsory military service in Britain between 1899-1914. Initial impetus for its creation was Boer War. Concerns over British military strength, and existing schemes of recruitment, led to creation in 1902. Social arguments linking conscription to health Britain grew from fears of physical deterioration which arose from Boer War. Before 1906, National Service League pamphlets and speeches pointed to Germany as model nation combining compulsory military service with social reform. British conscription movement insisted conscription was not a departure from peaceful British traditions. Switzerland pointed to as model society.

Of all major industrialized nations of Europe before 1914, only Britain without some system of compulsory military service.

National Service League pamphlet, 1909: “Help us to secure a strong, healthy, prosperous and peaceful Britain.” Called on British citizens to join conscription movement in a wide reaching scheme which would have a variety of benefits for the nation.

This essay will examine how the conscriptionists tried to widen the scope of their appeal.


It is impossible to understand the mentality and development of the conscription movement without realizing how deeply its members were shaken by the Boer War. Read the rest of this entry »

The Getaway | dir. Sam Peckinpah, adapt. from Jim Thompson | 1972


“A recently released ex-con and his loyal wife go on the run after a heist goes awry.” -IMDB. Steve McQueen, Ali MacGraw. Trash scene replaces Thompson’s cave claustrophobia sequence.

Screen shot 2012-12-28 at 12.19.02 PM

Read the rest of this entry »

Dr. Zhivago | dir. David Lean | 1965

Dr Zhivago Omar Sharif

Horses charge. Looking away/looking back. Throwing body in/recalling burial. Look at/look away, as Dr. Zhivago sees the illicit lovers. Look at camera, cut to gun after rape. She goes inside – do we hear the Doppler effect? Glasses down. See Lawrence of Arabia. “Get back in your ranks!” Looks like Colonel Blimp. Stitching clothes, stitching wounds, editing. Eyes from darkness, as she rejects him. Flash of color and light as the windows open. Overdub, “I lied,” – Nyet? Did his mouth move in Russian? Narrator cannot or does not represent himself speaking, in the flashbacks. Who is the intellectual on the train? He looks like Lean. Looking at the couple, happy in the worst of circumstances [Lean’s love life]. Train/doors – opening and closing, seeing war. Editing. Act 2, tunnel, explaining what son is seeing – war, “it’s a long way away.” Knife [cuts] gives him away. Rubs window in order to see out. Hand moves in lower left corner of screen, they’re in bed, flowers on the table. Glasses fall down the nose as father in law reads news that Czar is shot. Walking up in the snow – Tonya! Close up on face, circle isolates his face.

Jeffrey Richards and Anthony Aldgate / “Lest We Forget: Fame is the Spur” / British Cinema and Society / 1983

Fame is the Spur, 1947.

Election posted for 1923, featuring Ramsay MacDonald, Labour PM 1929-35.

After Labour government comes to power in 1945, the Boulting brothers make Fame is the Spur. Political, and recognized as such at the time. Not popular. About a Labour politician’s rise to power and fame, and his decline. Seen as thinly veiled portrait of Ramsay MacDonald. Most, including Labour government leaders, agreed message was: “It should not happen again,” and “Every man who sees this picture will want to go away and re-examine himself.” During 1930s, such a project would not have been considered because politics, particularly “references to controversial politics,” were banned by British Board of Film Censors. WW2 brought more flexibility and latitude into censorship system, resulting in several political themed movies: The Prime Minister 1941, The Young Mr Pitt 1942. BBFC, scrutinizing Fame is the Spur, found no insuperable problems, though pointed out: re Peterloo Massacre, “The actual scenes of fighting with the mob must be reduced to the minimum,” the word “blood” deleted from script, and required “forcible feeding should not be overstressed as torture” in scenes of Anna’s imprisonment as Suffragette. So, Boultings were able to make a political film. Most people simply didn’t pay to see it.

Jeffrey Richards and Anthony Aldgate / “1. Feature Film and the Historian” / British Cinema and Society / 1983

Jeffrey Richards. Photo credit David Sillitoe.

FEATURE FILMS and the HISTORIAN. In the 1960s, historians began to use film: newsreel and documentary. But, those did not represent “reality,” as was often assumed. Productions were highly selective and controlled. Raymond Durgnat: “Far from being progressive, these films are, in spirit, just what they were intended to be: literally speaking, commercials for the EMB or the GPO or any other part of the Establishment, and therefore the status quo of– of all periods– the Thirties.” The real value of the documentary movement was as a training ground for directors who made feature films during the war, bringing patina of realism to fictional films. Feature films seen and enjoyed by bulk of cinema-goers, and received the least attentions from historians [as of 1983]. 1960s auteur theory argued for single artistic vision in film-making, assigned this to director, as part of desire to confer artistic respectability to film. Commercial films are more often artefact or product than art, and because of this more useful to the social historian. Films of Gracie Fields more valuable to social historian than W.H. Auden poems, or Virginia Woolf novels. 1970s, structuralism and semiology up, influenced film critics, mix of avant-garde English Lit, French influence, Marxist ideology, linguistics and psychoanalysis for conceptual approach. Reaction against this, and intention of this book, is to find inspiration and methodology in history. This development comes not from France but from the United States of America, finding its inspiration and methodology in history. It deals not in pure speculation but in solid research, the assembling, evaluation and interpretation of facts, the relating of films to the world, the search for an understanding through the medium of popular films of the changing social and sexual roles of men and women, the concepts of work and leisure, class and race, peace and war, the real determinants of change and continuity in the real world.” Calls approach “contextual cinematic history.” Emphasizes context of film production. “Already resulted in two authoritative and stimulating general social histories of the American cinema”: Robert Sklar’s Movie-Made America, Garth Jowett’s Film: The Democratic Art. Lary May, Screening Out the Past: The Birth of Mass Culture and the Motion Picture Industry. May’s method a key innovation: analyze content and structure of groups of films, box-office trends, stars and their appeal, contemporary reviews and reactions, staging, lighting and action styles, fan magazines, censorship, picture palaces, and locate these in political, social, cultural context. This is the correct approach. Also recommends: American History/American Films: Interpreting the Hollywood Image, O’Conner and Jackson. Essays attempt to explain how films document social history, and capture American state of mind, and illustrate film industry development. At present [1983], very little contextual history of British cinema. Exception: Charles Barr’s Ealing Studios. What of other studios? Rank, Gainsborough, Associated British, Hammer? What of British stars? Here, three main concerns. 1) Analyze what film is saying, via structure, meaning, via script, visuals, acting, direction, photography, music. 2) context re film industry and political and social situation that produced it. 3) reception and audience reaction. Also look at stars. Raymond Durgnat: “The star is a reflection in which the public studies and adjusts its own image of itself. The social history of a nation can be written in terms of its films stars.” On stars, see Durgnat, Films and Feelings p.138, Richard Dyer, Stars 1979, Edgar Morin The Stars 1960, Alexander Walker Stardom 1974. [By 1960s, film was ceasing to be a mass entertainment medium and becoming a sectional and minority one.]

On film censorship and its role, see in particular Neville March Hunnings Film Censors and the Law 1967, Nicholas Pronay “The First Reality: Film Censorship in Liberal England” in Short Feature Films as History, p.113-37, Dorothy Knowles The Censor, the Drama and the Film 1934, John Trevelyan What the Censor Saw 1973, Guy Phelps Film Censorship 1975, Jeffrey Richards “The British Board of Film Censors and Content Control in the 1930s” in Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 1, 1981 pp.95-116; 2, 1982 pp.39-48.

Henry V / dir. Laurence Olivier / 1944 / star. Olivier, feat. Robert Newton

Robert Newton as Ancient Pistol in Henry V (1944), dir. Laurence Olivier. [He is wearing the armor with symbol on it, similar to the armor discussed by the officer when they prepare to engage French troops at the battle of Agincourt.]

Model London transition to model Globe Theatre, flag up, flag up real size. Man doesn’t eat apple, does drink. The wooden O can cram within it all these people. “On your imaginary forces work.” Close-up. Drinking backstage–> leaves hat off. Undressed/dressed. Backstage/onstage. 12:38 Olivier monologue, centers/rousing/dramatic. Camera pans full back, now, clapping audience. It rains on them. Change scene to Southampton. Painted curtain->set->new stage. “It was the heat of wine that set him on.” Still be kind and eye out our performance with your mind. [Challenges audience to imagine.] Goes inside Boar’s Head to scene you could not see from audience. Army-> audience for Olivier. “Once more into the breech!” Booming voice. Cuts so that he could lead them and be surrounded by them. I’d give– pot of ale. 51:30 talking with Irishman, looking at camera. “What is my nation? What is my nation?” Drums of war/murder. Change score. Henry V looks to the countryside as troops walk past gate. Camera pans to countryside. Woman speaking French. Flowers. Hand, finer, nail, learning body in English. Key opens door. [Lesson in scene writing.] Shot with horses, impossible to tell if it is a set or not. “I have the best honor of the world.” Symbol on chest armor. Bear-bating conversation, describing English. Out of beef. 1:14 Newton vs. Olivier, no shot/reverse shot. Camera on Newton only. All the characters are wandering in the dark. [Filmed adaptations are interesting because the language is more or less set in stone, so we isolate the director’s choice of staying focused on Newton here.] [Olivier recognizing King’s performance when undercover.] 1:21 Monologue about arms and legs joining together to decry vs. King, anti-war. “Be friends, you English fools, be friends.” “We have worries enough with the French.” Fades out. Monologue but interior monologue while camera is steady on Olivier’s face. Long shot of face. Looks to horizon/set/sundown. English army. It’s like the scene at opening, dressing for the theatre. Huge difference between Henry V public and private. By the time we’re outside, and it doesn’t look like a stage, Henry V has changed his persona. Monologue, lowering knight onto his horse. Drinking mounted knights. Flag/flag cut [interchangeable]. Kisses the French princess, cut, suddenly everyone returns during the cut. Pulls curtain over their faces. New queen’s face: smile, then camera cuts, then serious.