The Sunday Intertitle: Damn this War!/This Damn War! (with added panther)

Continuing to investigate the work of Alfred Machin. I thought at first there was little available, but actually a good bit of his early work is on YouTube.

MAUDIT SOIT LA GUERRE (1914) is fascinating because it’s an early feature, because it’s an anti-war movie made mere months before WWI broke out, and because it sorta predicts aerial warfare, with biplanes blowing up balloons and stuff, all staged full-scale.

But I’m also impressed by the stencil colour, which firstly is used to differentiate one side from the other: the two main tints are those applied to the unnamed rival nations’ uniforms. But then we get bright green grass, red roof tiles, and then, for the numerous explosions, flashes of all-over red.

Machin was doing his very best to personalize the concept of “the enemy” with this story of friends from different countries who find themselves fighting to the death on opposite sides. If we thought of the other side as people like us, it would be a lot harder to kill them.

Another thing I devoured recently was Jacques Tardi’s similarly titled graphic novel Goddamn This War!, translated and released by Fantagraphic Books, which paints a remorselessly grim (series of) picture(s) of the whole of WWI, largely from a French infantryman’s viewpoint. Tardi chooses to make his protagonist politically aware and cynical about the war from the get-go, eschewing the traditional journey from naive patriotism to war-weary cynicism. By starting downbeat, Tardi seems to leave himself nowhere to go, which is kind of true, but then he GOES THERE. So we get bludgeoned by page after page of horror and misery, and it’s exhausting — as it should be. I could barely finish it.

Light relief: Machin casts his favourite star, Mimir the panther, in an earlier short, SAIDA A ENLEVE PIS (1913).

3 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: Damn this War!/This Damn War! (with added panther)”

  1. David Ehrenstein Says:

    There’s a wonderful moment early on in “Reds” where Warren Beatty’s Jack Reed appears before a large audience at a political club and is introduced as someone who can “Tell us what this war is all about.” He gets up from his seat and simply says “Profits.”

  2. John Warthen Says:

    I read the Tardi/Verney GODDAMN THIS WAR! just last week. Its second-half is Verney’s chronological documentation of the slaughter, with archival photographs. Are you familiar with Joe Sacco’s one-of-kind graphic panorama THE GREAT WAR: July 1 1916, which unfolds to something like 16 feet of trench images?
    Thanks for sharing the tinted imagery. I presume a film like that was seized and repressed as soon as the killing started.

  3. I imagine the Machin film was simply withdrawn as not being the kind of thing anyone wanted after Belgium was invaded.

    I have Reds all ready to watch, but I have to watch it after dark (no curtains) and it gets dark so late here in summer, I’m generally too tired to put it on. So it’ll be one for the winter nights, I think.

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