Have you ever wanted to see a montage of movie clips that refer to New Year’s Day or Halloween? What about less obvious dates like January 23 or May 10?
For over two decades now, my official second-favorite film of all time has been The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985). An image from the film’s final scene is embedded in the banner at the top of every post on this blog. Thirteen months ago, I selected this film for a screening and discussion group at a film festival in Texas. Six weeks ago, on Boxing Day, I even got to see the film on the big screen for the first time ever — a 35mm print, even! — as part of the VanCity Theatre’s year-long Woody Allen series.
So I’m something of a fan — not just of this particular film, but of Woody Allen’s films in general, at least for the first two decades or so of his directing career. In truth, the last film directed by Woody that I really enjoyed was Bullets over Broadway (1994), and the last film to star him (or at least his voice) that I really enjoyed was the DreamWorks comedy Antz (1998). Since then, it has seemed to me that most of his films recycle themes that he did a better, more interesting job of exploring in his earlier films; and it has sometimes seemed to me that the moral urgency he brought to films like Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) has given way to a more cynical complacency in similarly-themed films like Match Point (2005).
Sixteen years ago, Matt Damon starred in Saving Private Ryan, a World War II movie that raised the question of whether it made sense for several solders to risk their lives just to save one ordinary man. Now he’s starring in The Monuments Men, a World War II movie about a bunch of soldiers who risk their lives — and, who knows, maybe the lives of others — to save classic works of art. And a question I’ve been wondering lately is whether the new film will even raise the question of whether it makes sense to sacrifice human life for inanimate objects of this sort.
The question isn’t really raised in any of the film’s promotional videos, which spell out the heroism of the main characters and the justification for their cause. As Damon puts it in the featurette below: “Ultimately, it’s a movie about people who are willing to sacrifice everything to save what is the very best of us, of humanity.”