The Monuments Men

Why does George Clooney have to pontificate? I'm happy just to watch him for an hour or so. He has assembled an attractive cast, collaborated on the PG-13 screenplay, and directed this piece, but sometimes....grrr...

Okay, let's talk about the film. As we all know, Adolph Hitler intended to amass the world's greatest collection of classic art for his Thousand-Year Reich; as a result he plundered museums, churches, art galleries and private collections. (Modern art, created by upstarts like Pablo Picasso and his ilk, was simply burned.) American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt tasked a group of art historians and museum curators to find the missing art, his fear being that as the Nazis lost the war, they might simply burn EVERYTHING. This fictionalized story is inspired by that directive.

For this story, here are some of the actors we admire:
  • George Clooney ("Gravity") is Frank Stokes, the idealistic leader of this little squad, which is comprised of men from the art world, who will recognize fine art when they see it. Each has, for one reason or another, been declared "unfit" for regular duty.
  • Matt Damon ("Elysium") plays James Granger, an art professional pulled from his duties in New York City, to try and rescue priceless European art. He learned to speak (poor) French in Canada and he never forgets he has a wife and two daughters waiting for him...
  • Bill Murray ("Hyde Park on the Hudson") is Richard Campbell, stuck with an obstacle course in basic training and an armed Nazi in Germany.
  • Jean Dujardin (an Oscar for "The Artist") is Jean Claude Clermont, recruited to help because he is French and actually CARES what happens to their art. I've come to admire this actor very much!
  • Cate Blanchett ("Blue Jasmine") plays Claire Simone, an employee of the Jeu de Paume, who kept meticulous records of the art that came through her museum.
If you want to see the actual MONUMENTAL task undertaken by Allied forces (NOT just American), please check out "The Rape of Europa," which is a jaw-dropping documentary drawn from newsreels, film clips and photographs. Only one scene in this drama alludes to the Allied effort to avoid bombing certain buildings as the war waged on. You will never look at European art (or architecture) the same way again! In my opinion, the fictionalized account diminishes the scope of what was done.

I particularly liked seeing George's handsome father play Frank Stokes 30 years later when he visits Michelangelo's Madonna and Child in Bruges with a grandson. What a nice touch!
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Here is a sample:
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