Monday, September 24, 2007

Ken Smoulders

Having given Ken Burns WWII documentary two nights, I now feel comfortable saying it's slow and often pedestrian. Not having a wise social commentator or two to provide less-than-obvious insights, plus some "big poetry," takes a toll. At some point all these small personal descriptions need a counterbalance. I love those old guys and ladies to death, but much of what they say could have been imagined before they said it.

His four-town structure produces more repetition than illumination. The Mobile section is by far the best. A little bit of snow-covered Minnesota goes a long way. I would have thought I would have grooved on all the nostalgia -- brave old guys! my meat! -- but apparently this is not so.

Also, I already know quite a lot about WWII. Nothing on screen I haven't seen before other than some slightly bigger piles of slightly more manged bodies. Maybe it's better in big-screen high def.

Really, I wouldn't mind a more challenging approach. I wouldn't mind a slightly more critical view, suggesting not how we finally won it, but how we might have won it better and caused fewer problems afterward.

Still, the show has many hours to go. Let us hope for the best. But watching is starting to feel like a duty.


Lowell said...

Night four ends and your assessment holds still holds true, particularly the absence of critical imput by knowledgeable historians. Like you, I have seen just about all the footage and am yearning for something more.

It is a bold attempt to tell the story from the ground up but it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. It pales next to Burn's awesome Civil War.

While there is sentiment aplenty, and rightfully so, for the soldiers, their families and their sacrifices, the enemy soldiers are faceless, nameless, along with their families. They come off, dare I say it?, as the proverbial chopped liver.

No time for Letters from Iwo Jima, I guess.

Tanu Sankalia said...

It was a pity reading Tim Goodman fawning over Burns. I'm glad you think it's almost shlock. His documentary on Jazz was atrocious, he produced a terrible piece on Frank Lloyd Wright, and he now has the keys to producing the historical consciousness of a whole generation (they're adopting this documentary as part of the history curriculum across the country).