Contributor Post Created with Sketch. ACF #7 Dunkirk

 

Here’s the first in a series of podcasts on the movies of Christopher Nolan, starting with his newest, Dunkirk. Today, I am joined by my friend Eric and we’re talking about everything from Winston Churchill and Christopher Nolan to Edward Elgar and Charles Lightoller (yes, the second officer on the Titanic!). The crisis of confidence of the West is part of the discussion, too, as are America’s teenagers. And all that in about half an hour. Listen to our podcast — you’ll get details about the movie mentioned almost nowhere else, and assembled in a novel way. Pain and patriotism rate a mention, too!

There are 88 comments.

  1. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera Post author

    Folks, for some reason, the link-podcast doesn’t embed here, in the page for the post! But it does embed on the Main Feed page! I cannot explain it.

    Please click on the link here for the podcast.

    • #1
    • July 29, 2017, at 9:38 AM PST
    • 1 like
  2. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera Post author

    Or maybe I can embed it as comment?

    • #2
    • July 29, 2017, at 9:38 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  3. Trink Coolidge

    You both answered so many questions for me. My family is going to see “Dunkirk” this afternoon. I won’t be accompanying them, but will look forward to hearing their impressions. As one ages, depictions of suffering become much more difficult to view.

    Had you read Dorothy Rabinowitz on the movie?

    ” . . . .

    The film’s aim, as its director says, is to tell a universal story of individuals struggling for survival. A struggle for survival under terrifying assault is exactly what we see through most of the action. Left out of this saga is any other sense of the importance of Operation Dynamo, the unexpectedly successful rescue of 338,000 soldiers who could, instead of being marched off to captivity by that barely visible enemy—call it Nation X—return to an England desperate for manpower.

    Continuing the fight was, to this England facing invasion, everything. To leave out of this story, in addition to Churchill, any sense of England’s peril or the might of its enemy is to drain much of the life out of history.”

    • #3
    • July 29, 2017, at 11:03 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  4. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera Post author

    Trink (View Comment):
    You both answered so many questions for me. My family is going to see “Dunkirk” this afternoon. I won’t be accompanying them, but will look forward to hearing their impressions. As one ages, depictions of suffering become much more difficult to view.

    Had you read Dorothy Rabinowitz on the movie?

    ” . . . .

    The film’s aim, as its director says, is to tell a universal story of individuals struggling for survival. A struggle for survival under terrifying assault is exactly what we see through most of the action. Left out of this saga is any other sense of the importance of Operation Dynamo, the unexpectedly successful rescue of 338,000 soldiers who could, instead of being marched off to captivity by that barely visible enemy—call it Nation X—return to an England desperate for manpower.

    Continuing the fight was, to this England facing invasion, everything. To leave out of this story, in addition to Churchill, any sense of England’s peril or the might of its enemy is to drain much of the life out of history.”

    That’s partly true, about individuals struggling for survival, but it becomes a cretinism when that’s all people see.

    I’ve noticed, as have some friends, that it’s mostly conservatives who don’t know how to take yes for an answer complaining–they’re moving from not caring at all about popular culture & what Americans can have in common & share by way of stories to trying to ruin their audience’s only chance to participate in something worthwhile.

    Don’t let that sort of cavil bother you–watch the movie–then listen to the podcast–I’ve done justice to the movie in a way these detractors cannot, because they do not have any interest in what the movie actually shows you.

    One last criticism of that criticism. It’s more than a little Philistine & lazy: I’m sure that lady’s great, but that writing & thinking is an embarrassment to anyone who got into college. It’s foolish to try to get at an author’s intention by way of interviews, when a man will say what he has to say, rather than from his movie, where he can show you what he really cares about! If I were teaching English 101 & someone dealt that way with anything, I’d fail them. Couldn’t she just confess Nolan didn’t do what she wanted & she doesn’t get what he wanted?

    • #4
    • July 29, 2017, at 11:22 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  5. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera Post author

    & as always, I’m glad your family is going to the movies–glad, too, you yourself avoid these stories. You’re not the only lady I know with a delicate sensibility & I always try to stand up for that, be, sort of, protective. It’s a quality to be prized to look away from too much ugliness. It, too, is part of the world, but it needn’t oppress everyone!

    • #5
    • July 29, 2017, at 11:23 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  6. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    Trink (View Comment):

    Continuing the fight was, to this England facing invasion, everything. To leave out of this story, in addition to Churchill, any sense of England’s peril or the might of its enemy is to drain much of the life out of history.”

    I saw it Wednesday evening. It exceeded my expectations, I left feeling I’d seen a great movie and one that resonated emotionally with me. Rabinowitz’s criticisms, and others like it, are besides the point for me. This was not a history book or documentary. I dislike in-your-face, didactic history lessons, which is most of what TV and movies provides us today (almost uniformly in a progressive direction). Dunkirk is about the nobility of the willingness to self-sacrifice, the potential for it even in those who might initially fall short, and done with the understatement typical of that generation. It does effectively convey the sense of England’s peril through the snippets of exposition by the naval officer played by Kenneth Branagh, the civilian father who takes his boat to Dunkirk (Mark Rylance), and the actions of a Spitfire pilot (Tom Hardy). Plus it keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. At least when you see it in IMAX.

    Churchill does not appear in the movie, but the words from his famous Dunkirk speech are spoken,, and Nolan’s choice of when, how, and by whom, to have those words spoken makes perfect sense in the context of the film.

    • #6
    • July 29, 2017, at 2:41 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  7. MLH Inactive
    MLH

    Really enjoyed the podcast. I enjoyed the film and had a visceral reaction to it. Now I know why. Thank you Eric and Titus!

    • #7
    • July 29, 2017, at 3:21 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  8. Trink Coolidge

    Hubby (Keithers) just called me from the theatre lobby where he’s waiting for @westernchauvinist and her family. I’ll be back in a few hours to report on their impressions. They’re a pretty sophisticated bunch of movie-goers. This will be interesting. For some reason I feel compelled to mention that my dad led a bofor gun crew onto bloody Omaha beach. I remember him talking about the bodies stacked like cordwood and how he saw a soldier step on a land mine as they made their way inland.

    Western Chauvinist’s father-in-law who just turned 90, was one of the first air-borne rangers who parachuted into Korea, they lost a man who jumped late and hit the side of a mountain. At one point he had to remain under the floorboards in a friendly local’s home for several days as the Chinese troops flooded the area. The owner fed him rice through the floor boards. To this day if any rice ends up on his plate – you better get it outta there.

    • #8
    • July 29, 2017, at 3:24 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  9. bridget Inactive

    I saw Dunkirk and thought it was one of the worst movies I had seen in my life.

    By the end of the first third, I thought it was a powerful movie and rather enjoyed it, despite the constant annoyance of the relentless time-cutting. By the time there was the beach rescue, I didn’t care and just wanted the awful thing to be over. (Apparently, if you knew at that point that the air/land/sea stories would all converge from thereon and move in a somewhat linear fashion time-wise, it was very emotional. If, like me, you thought, “In eight seconds, we are going to cut to a military boat being torpedo-ed, and we won’t figure out until the end of that scene whether it’s three days ago, earlier today, or tomorrow that it happens,” then it was about as emotional as cleaning up hairballs. And I say this as someone who usually loves scenes such as that one.)

    There were some plot holes – some minor, some gaping – that ordinarily would have been a minor nuisance at worst, but, with the setup of the movie, made a bad movie worse. That gets me to the crux of my complaint with the thing: by the halfway mark, I was acutely aware, at every moment, of Nolan’s iron fist. It was not like listening to Mozart and hearing the composer’s signature; it was like trying to watch a baseball game with an umpire who dresses up as Barney and sings in the infield after every strike. Now, I am an entirely unsophisticated filmgoer, so you smarter people will have appreciated the art in ways I could not.

    The only positive thing I can say about it was that it left me wanting to see a movie about the rescue at Dunkirk.

    • #9
    • July 29, 2017, at 3:51 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  10. MLH Inactive
    MLH

    bridget (View Comment):
    I saw Dunkirk and thought it was one of the worst movies I had seen in my life.

    By the end of the first third, I thought it was a powerful movie and rather enjoyed it, despite the constant annoyance of the relentless time-cutting. By the time there was the beach rescue, I didn’t care and just wanted the awful thing to be over. (Apparently, if you knew at that point that the air/land/sea stories would all converge from thereon and move in a somewhat linear fashion time-wise, it was very emotional. If, like me, you thought, “In eight seconds, we are going to cut to a military boat being torpedo-ed, and we won’t figure out until the end of that scene whether it’s three days ago, earlier today, or tomorrow that it happens,” then it was about as emotional as cleaning up hairballs. And I say this as someone who usually loves scenes such as that one.)

    The only positive thing I can say about it was that it left me wanting to see a movie about the rescue at Dunkirk.

    Did you listen to the podcast?

    • #10
    • July 29, 2017, at 3:53 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  11. bridget Inactive

    MLH (View Comment):
    Did you listen to the podcast?

    Serious question: why would I?

    I’m a reasonably intelligent person who rather likes dramas and war movies. If a dramatic war movie requires a freakin podcast to make me not hate it, it’s a spectacularly awful movie with a podcast expansion pack.

    • #11
    • July 29, 2017, at 4:22 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  12. MLH Inactive
    MLH

    bridget (View Comment):

    MLH (View Comment):
    Did you listen to the podcast?

    Serious question: why would I?

    I’m a reasonably intelligent person who rather likes dramas and war movies. If a dramatic war movie requires a freakin podcast to make me not hate it, it’s a spectacularly awful movie with a podcast expansion pack.

    because the post is about the podcast. but you know that.

    • #12
    • July 29, 2017, at 4:27 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  13. Western Chauvinist Member

    bridget (View Comment):
    The only positive thing I can say about it was that it left me wanting to see a movie about the rescue at Dunkirk.

    Yes, precisely. The family had mixed reactions, with the younger (Nolan fans) really liking it, but Mr. Trink and I agreed we didn’t connect with the characters (whose names you don’t even know unless you read some reviews), found the time shifts more about Nolan’s style than telling the story, and, overall, felt it did not serve the story of Dunkirk well at all.

    Other than that, it was a good movie. /heh, sometimes I amuse myself

    Oh, and the soundtrack was supposed to add to the immersive experience (says Chauvinist the Elder), but I found it irritating in the extreme. I’m going to have to watch Patton to recover some appreciation for the war genre.

    • #13
    • July 29, 2017, at 9:24 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  14. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera Post author

    bridget (View Comment):

    MLH (View Comment):
    Did you listen to the podcast?

    Serious question: why would I?

    I’m a reasonably intelligent person who rather likes dramas and war movies. If a dramatic war movie requires a freakin podcast to make me not hate it, it’s a spectacularly awful movie with a podcast expansion pack.

    I suppose the most obvious reason in the world is, if you have a movie people you respect like, you might want to learn why someone could think it as good as you think it awful. Maybe less obviously, if you’re aware that the director is a fairly thoughtful guy, you might want to understand his intention.

    Or you could think of it as purging whatever makes you think things like ‘spectacularly awful.’

    I say nothing against reasonably intelligent people–I suppose, that’s my audience–but experts at interpretation of movies they are not–which, I suppose, is why more than a few of them have become my audience…

    • #14
    • July 29, 2017, at 10:50 PM PST
    • 1 like
  15. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera Post author

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    bridget (View Comment):
    The only positive thing I can say about it was that it left me wanting to see a movie about the rescue at Dunkirk.

    Yes, precisely. The family had mixed reactions, with the younger (Nolan fans) really liking it, but Mr. Trink and I agreed we didn’t connect with the characters (whose names you don’t even know unless you read some reviews), found the time shifts more about Nolan’s style than telling the story, and, overall, felt it did not serve the story of Dunkirk well at all.

    Other than that, it was a good movie. /heh, sometimes I amuse myself

    Oh, and the soundtrack was supposed to add to the immersive experience (says Chauvinist the Elder), but I found it irritating in the extreme. I’m going to have to watch Patton to recover some appreciation for the war genre.

    The director really risked everything on the psychological-emotional combination of time-shifts & the sound-design. Of course, it cannot work for everybody!

    • #15
    • July 29, 2017, at 10:52 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  16. Trink Coolidge

    Titus Techera (View Comment):

    The director really risked everything on the psychological-emotional combination of time-shifts & the sound-design. Of course, it cannot work for everybody!

    Sitting around that table and listening to the Chauvies and Mr. Trink discuss their responses to “Dunkirk” was very interesting. The “pro” musings seemed to issue from more abstract, intellectual argumentation. The “cons” from a more visceral “Reeeeally? C’mon.” very similar to Bridget’s response at #9.

    (Gotta say: Listening to and observing my kid sis and her nuanced feints and parries made so proud. Dang she’s smart :)

    • #16
    • July 30, 2017, at 5:39 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  17. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera Post author

    She’s pretty fearless when she gives her opinions, too!

    • #17
    • July 30, 2017, at 6:10 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  18. Trink Coolidge

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    She’s pretty fearless when she gives her opinions, too!

    You bet, Titus! You’d not guess the tigress ‘neath her diminutive, pretty visage :)

    • #18
    • July 30, 2017, at 6:12 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  19. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera Post author

    Haven’t seen the visage, but I’ve felt the claws. Well, she’s mostly been dear & kind, but with claws!

    • #19
    • July 30, 2017, at 6:30 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  20. Western Chauvinist Member

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    I say nothing against reasonably intelligent people–I suppose, that’s my audience–but experts at interpretation of movies they are not–which, I suppose, is why more than a few of them have become my audience…

    Ever read The Painted Word by Tom Wolfe?

    Anyhoo, I can appreciate your (and the young Chauvinists’) appreciation of the artistic impression left by the movie. But, I’m a bit old-fashioned and think a piece should be “gettable” by the general audience without understanding the artist’s intentions. If it doesn’t evoke something fundamental in the human condition or human relations, it’s just not going to speak to me and other non-experts. Sorry to disappoint. ;-)

    • #20
    • July 30, 2017, at 7:12 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  21. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera Post author

    I think this is a generational shift. Young people have been wowed. & for a good reason. In my podcast, I tried to give at least an introduction to this problem: The civilization of the word is over–it is now a civilization of the image.

    • #21
    • July 30, 2017, at 7:17 AM PST
    • 1 like
  22. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera Post author

    As for the book–yes, Mr. Wolfe is not infrequently right about the stupidity of painting according to theory or liking painting according to theory. But people love that sort of mockery partly because they don’t like modern art. Some modern art is great, though obscure–as much as the notion of obscurity in greatness grates on democratic sensibilities. & in my own defense–you can see the stuff I right about paintings for Ricochet. That’s insightful stuff! Having known lots of Tom, Dick, & Harrys, I’ll tell you–it’s worth reading that stuff!

    • #22
    • July 30, 2017, at 7:20 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  23. Trink Coolidge

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    Some modern art is great, though obscure–

    Would you share a few of these? ^ Or kindly link to those posts I’ve missed. We’re traveling today and will have to search for your art posts in the next day or so.

    • #23
    • July 30, 2017, at 7:34 AM PST
    • Like
  24. Valiuth Member

    I haven’t had time yet to listen to the podcast but I did see the movie, and now I have heard several people criticizing it and praising it. So I thought I would throw my two cents in now as a marker and come back to the thread after listening to the podcast. I guess this will be a good experiment to see if further discussion will change my mind about the movie. So here is my base line opinion, before listening to your podcast.

    I thought it was a remarkably different sort of war movie than what we are accustomed to. Normally War movies are either character based or event based. By which I mean they either focus on particular characters real or fictional and the drama of the movie is what happens to those characters how they grow and change (Saving Private Ryan, Hacksaw Ridge, Bridge over the River Kwaii, Patton). The Event based movies are about a particular event and usually try to capture the whole scope and meaning of the event. They have many characters but none of them have arcs (A Bridge too Far, Midway, Gettysburg). This movie was all about emotion and sensory experience of the event. Dunkirk is the setting and the main character is us the viewer.

    The movie creates all of the loneliness, anxiety, determination, desperation, relief and determination that those living through Dunkirk must have felt. To do this it can not take the time to give exposition that will give one the scope and sense of drama of the event, nor can it bother with familiarizing us to the characters. Its effect and intention I think is to allow us to project on to these blank slates ourselves, so that we may experience it first hand. Perhaps the only thing more it could have done would be to have been shot entirely in first person, which only parts of the dog fight scenes were. I agree that the disjointed time line throws a bit of a curve in our way of normally processing information. But, it is meant to do this. The pilots don’t know anything about the boats and people they are defending, the civilians likewise, nor do the soldiers on the sinking ship. They only interact with each other in brief and fleeting instances completely oblivious to the back stories of the people they are rescuing or being rescued by. If you were a soldier on that beach you would not know what the fighter pilot is thinking, or if he has a girlfriend. I doubt you would be talking to others about the impending doom of Nazi global conquest even if you are thinking about it. All you would see and hear is a vast empty beach and the scream of dive bombers. And that is what we as an audience also experienced.

    • #24
    • July 30, 2017, at 8:01 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  25. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera Post author

    @Valiuth, I think you’re absolutely right about the psychological requirement of realism in this case. Nolan wanted to start people there, tie them to the mast there, & then take them for a much more sophisticated ride than people have noticed. All I can say is, listen to the podcast when you find time–it’s only half an hour, but we point out lots of stuff the critics simply have not noticed, either because they’ve not Eric’s musical education, my education in political philosophy–or a concern for history–there’s a great big Titanic connection in the middle of the movie that only we are talking about for whatever reason…

    • #25
    • July 30, 2017, at 8:08 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  26. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera Post author

    Trink (View Comment):

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    Some modern art is great, though obscure–

    Would you share a few of these? ^ Or kindly link to those posts I’ve missed. We’re traveling today and will have to search for your art posts in the next day or so.

    So my commentary on Rilke’s The panther comes to mind!

    As well as Larkin poems, Annus Mirabilis & Homage to a government!

    As well as commentary on a few European modernist poets! Those are podcasts…

    I’d write more about modern art, but nobody’s paying me… Maybe wait for my Hitchcock book.

    Or the podcast I’m doing with James Poulos on David Lynch as moralist about America (imminent, but not yet recorded…).

    • #26
    • July 30, 2017, at 8:20 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  27. MLH Inactive
    MLH

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    I haven’t had time yet to listen to the podcast but I did see the movie, and now I have heard several people criticizing it and praising it. So I thought I would throw my two cents in now as a marker and come back to the thread after listening to the podcast. I guess this will be a good experiment to see if further discussion will change my mind about the movie. So here is my base line opinion, before listening to your podcast.

    I thought it was a remarkably different sort of war movie than what we are accustomed to. Normally War movies are either character based or event based. By which I mean they either focus on particular characters real or fictional and the drama of the movie is what happens to those characters how they grow and change (Saving Private Ryan, Hacksaw Ridge, Bridge over the River Kwaii, Patton). The Event based movies are about a particular event and usually try to capture the whole scope and meaning of the event. They have many characters but none of them have arcs (A Bridge too Far, Midway, Gettysburg). This movie was all about emotion and sensory experience of the event. Dunkirk is the setting and the main character is us the viewer.

    The movie creates all of the loneliness, anxiety, determination, desperation, relief and determination that those living through Dunkirk must have felt. To do this it can not take the time to give exposition that will give one the scope and sense of drama of the event, nor can it bother with familiarizing us to the characters. Its effect and intention I think is to allow us to project on to these blank slates ourselves, so that we may experience it first hand. Perhaps the only thing more it could have done would be to have been shot entirely in first person, which only parts of the dog fight scenes were. I agree that the disjointed time line throws a bit of a curve in our way of normally processing information. But, it is meant to do this. The pilots don’t know anything about the boats and people they are defending, the civilians likewise, nor do the soldiers on the sinking ship. They only interact with each other in brief and fleeting instances completely oblivious to the back stories of the people they are rescuing or being rescued by. If you were a soldier on that beach you would not know what the fighter pilot is thinking, or if he has a girlfriend. I doubt you would be talking to others about the impending doom of Nazi global conquest even if you are thinking about it. All you would see and hear is a vast empty beach and the scream of dive bombers. And that is what we as an audience also experienced.

    And you haven’t listened to the podcast?!

    • #27
    • July 30, 2017, at 8:28 AM PST
    • 1 like
  28. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    My willingness to invest the time in listening to a podcast or reading a commentary on a movie I’ve already seen depends on whether the movie connected with me. Whether you like or dislike a film is not like math; there is no set answer – it either resonates with you in some way or it does not. Some do in ways that are very emotionally affecting like Dunkirk, or just funny, or, like Nolan’s The Dark Knight, because they are disturbing and thought provoking, so I’m likely to be interested in hearing more about it and maybe getting some insights that went over my head when I viewed it. But if it doesn’t resonate, it doesn’t resonate, and it’s unlikely that anyone will convince me differently so I am not going to invest the time.

    • #28
    • July 30, 2017, at 9:07 AM PST
    • 1 like
  29. Valiuth Member

    MLH (View Comment):

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    I haven’t had time yet to listen to the podcast but I did see the movie, and now I have heard several people criticizing it and praising it. So I thought I would throw my two cents in now as a marker and come back to the thread after listening to the podcast. I guess this will be a good experiment to see if further discussion will change my mind about the movie. So here is my base line opinion, before listening to your podcast.

    I thought it was a remarkably different sort of war movie than what we are accustomed to. Normally War movies are either character based or event based. By which I mean they either focus on particular characters real or fictional and the drama of the movie is what happens to those characters how they grow and change (Saving Private Ryan, Hacksaw Ridge, Bridge over the River Kwaii, Patton). The Event based movies are about a particular event and usually try to capture the whole scope and meaning of the event. They have many characters but none of them have arcs (A Bridge too Far, Midway, Gettysburg). This movie was all about emotion and sensory experience of the event. Dunkirk is the setting and the main character is us the viewer.

    …..

    And you haven’t listened to the podcast?!

    Just listened to it, and I see what you mean. But you know what they say, about great minds? They are right twice a day..

    • #29
    • July 30, 2017, at 9:08 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  30. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera Post author

    Valiuth (View Comment):

    MLH (View Comment):

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    I haven’t had time yet to listen to the podcast but I did see the movie, and now I have heard several people criticizing it and praising it. So I thought I would throw my two cents in now as a marker and come back to the thread after listening to the podcast. I guess this will be a good experiment to see if further discussion will change my mind about the movie. So here is my base line opinion, before listening to your podcast.

    I thought it was a remarkably different sort of war movie than what we are accustomed to. Normally War movies are either character based or event based. By which I mean they either focus on particular characters real or fictional and the drama of the movie is what happens to those characters how they grow and change (Saving Private Ryan, Hacksaw Ridge, Bridge over the River Kwaii, Patton). The Event based movies are about a particular event and usually try to capture the whole scope and meaning of the event. They have many characters but none of them have arcs (A Bridge too Far, Midway, Gettysburg). This movie was all about emotion and sensory experience of the event. Dunkirk is the setting and the main character is us the viewer.

    …..

    And you haven’t listened to the podcast?!

    Just listened to it, and I see what you mean. But you know what they say, about great minds? They are right twice a day..

    Yep! I’m calling it a day while I’m ahead…

    • #30
    • July 30, 2017, at 9:10 AM PST
    • 1 like