They Shall Not Grow Old

TSNGO

This isn’t a gif from a fiction movie – it’s actual footage from the first world war which has been cleaned up, extra frames added to bring it up to 26 per second, and then colorised. It’s the kind of thing which sets new standards for how we can use original sources to bring the past to life, something which Centuries of Sound obviously is in favour of. The scenes towards the end with the worst effects of the war are so shocking and visceral that I can’t imagine I’ll ever forget them.

The film, directed by Peter Jackson, is not perfect. I liked very much how it operated entirely on the personal level of the soldiers, but inevitably this led to a nagging feeling that there was a lot being missed. This is something which cannot be helped, though, and as far as two-hour documentaries about the war go, it’s surely unsurpassable.

To stream on Prime Video
For sale on Blu Ray or DVD

 

James Joyce – A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

A Portrait

The first and easily the most accessible of Joyce’s three novels, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man tells the story of the early life of Stephen Dedalus, a fictionalized version of Joyce who will later appear in Ulysses. Cut down from a gigantic experimental autobiography, the work took Joyce the best part of 15 years, so you may be surprised to find how readable it is, especially if you have previously attempted to read his other novels.

The entire text is available here at Project Gutenberg
Here is a downloadable audiobook at Librivox
And here is the book for sale on Amazon

And here’s an episode of In Our Time on the book, if you can only spare half an hour

The Death of Rasputin

rasputin

The death of Grigori Rasputin, the infamous “Mad Monk” of Russia is the stuff of weird history legend. The story passed down by his assassin (and mentioned in the less accurate account given by Boney M in the mid 1970s) is as follows

Yusupov began to panic as Rasputin appeared to consume enough cyanide to kill scores of men. As Rasputin started to have some difficulty swallowing his wine, Yusupov feigned concern and asked Rasputin if he was feeling ill…

…Soon, however, Rasputin appeared to recover and become more energetic. Fearing that the poison had failed, Yusupov stood up and paced the room to work up the nerve to shoot Rasputin… Yusupov pulled out the revolver and firing one shot, hitting Rasputin in the chest. Rasputin cried out and collapsed onto the floor, where he laid in a growing pool of blood but did not move… The doctor checked for Rasputin’s pulse and found none, confirming that Rasputin was dead, shot close enough to his heart to be immediately fatal…

Rasputin’s body laid motionless exactly where they had left it, but Yusupov wanted to be sure. He shook the body and didn’t see any signs of life — at first. Then, Rasputin’s eyelids started to twitch, just before Rasputin opened them. “I then saw both eyes,” Yusupov wrote, “the green eyes of a viper – staring at me with an expression of diabolical hatred.” Rasputin lunged at Yusupov, snarling like an animal and digging his fingers into Yusupov’s neck…

Purishkevich was the first out the door, and he immediately fired two shots at the fleeing Rasputin. He missed, but then Purishkevich chased down the wounded Rasputin and from just feet away, fired two more shots. One of the shots struck Rasputin in the head, inflicting a killing blow, and Rasputin collapsed to the ground. Yusupov had two loyal servants wrap Rasputin’s body in heavy carpets and tied with heavy chains. The conspirators then brought the body to a bridge over the Neva River and dumped it into an unfrozen patch of water below.

https://allthatsinteresting.com/rasputin-death

This documentary has the standard telling of his final hours

With the hundredth anniversary of his death, however, questions have inevitably arisen. First this BBC documentary, which alleges that the assassination was the work of rogue British secret service agents:

Yusupov’s account has also come under greater scrutiny, as in this article in The Smithsonian

Rasputin’s actual murder was probably far less dramatic. His daughter Maria, who fled Russia after the Revolution and became a circus lion tamer billed as “the daughter of the famous mad monk whose feats in Russia astonished the world,” wrote her own book in 1929 that condemned Yussupov’s actions and questioned the veracity of his account. She wrote that her father did not like sweets and never would have eaten a platter of cakes. The autopsy reports do not mention poison or drowning but instead conclude that he was shot in the head at close range. Yussupov transformed the murder into an epic struggle of good versus evil to sell books and bolster his own reputation.

This podcast from Stuff You Missed In History Class also has a decent summary of Rasputin’s life and death.

 

Intolerance

Intolerance Gif

After my very mixed feelings about the DW Griffith’s beautiful, appalling racist epic The Birth of a Nation, I was keen to check out the next film he made, Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Throughout the Ages. I’d heard that it was made to address the divisions caused by the controversial release of The Birth of a Nation, including the resurgence of the Klu Klux Klan. But it seems that I may have misunderstood DWG’s intentions.

Intolerance is supposedly about the scourge of intolerance throughout the ages – only the focus (if there is one) seems to be on closer analysis of intolerances perpetrated against the ideas and prejudices of one DW Griffith. The right to make a racist film without criticism, the right to follow a more puritanical religion, and so on. You may have a hard time actually picking these out of the immense scope of the thing, but as far as a moral core goes, I’m afraid it may be a rotten one.

Otherwise I’m left with two impressions. Firstly that the whole thing is visually absolutely stunning. The scenes in ancient Babylon in particular are some of the most ambitious I’ve seen in any era – and bearing in mind how everything needed to be constructed in real life, the achievement here is undeniable. Griffith also seems to have developed his editing style a fair amount in the year between productions, and some sections were clearly influential. That is, if you can find them. Because this is a long, long film, and what plot there is is impossible to follow.

A lot of this is due to the convoluted story of the film’s production. DWG started off shooting a film about a strike at a mill, in which the villains are not just the mill owners but also the moral puritans driving the strikers. After showing this to his friends in the industry he decided this was too slight to be the follow-up to the biggest film of all time and started shooting another three segments – one in ancient Babylon, one about Jesus’s crucifixion and one about the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of Protestant Huguenots in France.

Intolerance is therefore four films, woven together over three and a half hours of screen time. Most of the characters (and there are a lot of these) are unnamed, and the connection between the stories is highly tenuous. I’m not sure if my attention span has been destroyed by mobile phones and having small children, but it was very difficult to follow one strand, let alone four. This also seems to have been the opinion of contemporary audiences, who did not flock to the cinema as they had previously. The film barely broke even, and DWG’s career never really recovered. In the last century, however, the film has had a critical renaissance – writers who do not want to say anything nice about BOAN have instead flocked to lavish praise on it. Armond White, for example, described it as “The Greatest Movie Ever Made” in the National Review, an opinion which is clearly incorrect. More recently parallels have been drawn between the concept of “intolerance” as demonstrated in the film and the debating tactics of the alt-right, where intolerance of racism is presented as a greater crime than racism itself.

My take is this: it’s another beautiful, awful film, only this time it’s more beautiful, and also really, really confusing.

This episode of the superb podcast You Must Remember This looks at the making of Intolerance.

 

1916 in Art

Philpot, Glyn Warren, 1884-1937; The Skyscraper

Glyn Warren Philpot – The Skyscraper

Paul Gustav Fischer – Sunbathing in the Dunes

Paul Gustav Fischer – Sunbathing in the Dunes

Jack, Richard, 1866-1952; The Return to the Front: Victoria Railway Station

Richard Jack – The Return to the Front- Victoria Railway Station

C. R. W. Nevinson - French Troops Resting

C. R. W. Nevinson – French Troops Resting

George Grosz – Suicide

George Grosz – Suicide

Jean Metzinger - Femme au miroir (Femme à sa toilette, Lady at her Dressing Table)

Jean Metzinger – Femme au miroir (Femme à sa toilette, Lady at her Dressing Table)

Matthew Smith – Fitzroy Street Nude No. 1

Matthew Smith – Fitzroy Street Nude No. 1

Henri Matisse – The Piano Lesson

Henri Matisse – The Piano Lesson

Giorgio de Chirico - Metaphysical Interior with Biscuits

Giorgio de Chirico – Metaphysical Interior with Biscuits

Pablo Picasso - Still-life with Door, Guitar and Bottles

Pablo Picasso – Still-life with Door, Guitar and Bottles

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner – Königstein Station

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner – Königstein Station

Kazimir Malevich – Suprematist Composition

Kazimir Malevich – Suprematist Composition

Marcel Duchamp – Apolinère Enameled

Marcel Duchamp – Apolinère Enameled

Mark Gertle - Merry-Go-Round

Mark Gertle – Merry-Go-Round

Amedeo Modigliani - Seated Nude

Amedeo Modigliani – Seated Nude

Georgia O'Keeffe - Blue 2

Georgia O’Keeffe – Blue 2

1916 in Film

chaplin gif

 

Intolerance

The Floorwalker

Sherlock Holmes

Fatty and Mabel Adrift

The Rink

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Cenere

The Mystery of the Leaping Fish

Judex: L’ombre mystérieuse (The Mysterious Shadow), Episode 1

Farmer Alfalfa Sees New York

Joan The Woman

Snow White

Hell’s Hinges

East Is East

The Danger Girl

Behind the Screen

Civilization

One A.M.

The Battle of the Somme

Hoodoo Ann

The Count

The Curse of Quon Gwon

The Pawnshop

Where Are My Children?

The Return of Draw Egan

Police

 

Elsewhere in 1916

January 1 – The British Royal Army Medical Corps carries out the first successful blood transfusion, using blood that had been stored and cooled.

January 1 – The British Royal Army Medical Corps carries out the first successful blood transfusion, using blood that had been stored and cooled.

January 10 – In the Erzurum Offensive, Russia inflicts a defeat on the Ottoman Empire.

January 10 – In the Erzurum Offensive, Russia inflicts a defeat on the Ottoman Empire.

January 13 - Ottoman Empire forces defeat the Allied British in the Battle of Wadi.

January 13 – Ottoman Empire forces defeat the Allied British in the Battle of Wadi.

February 11 - Emma Goldman is arrested for lecturing on birth control in the United States.

February 11 – Emma Goldman is arrested for lecturing on birth control in the United States.

February 12 – At The Battle of Salaita Hill, South African and other British Empire troops fail to take a German East African defensive position.

February 12 – At The Battle of Salaita Hill, South African and other British Empire troops fail to take a German East African defensive position.

February 21 – The Battle of Verdun begins in France.

February 21 – The Battle of Verdun begins in France.

March 8 – Pancho Villa leads 500 Mexican raiders in an attack against Columbus, New Mexico, killing 12 U.S. soldiers. A garrison of the U.S. 13th Cavalry Regiment fights back and drives them away.

March 8 – Pancho Villa leads 500 Mexican raiders in an attack against Columbus, New Mexico, killing 12 U.S. soldiers. A garrison of the U.S. 13th Cavalry Regiment fights back and drives them away.

March 24 – French ferry SS Sussex is torpedoed by SM UB-29 in the English Channel, with at least 50 killed, including the composer Enrique Granados.

March 24 – French ferry SS Sussex is torpedoed by SM UB-29 in the English Channel, with at least 50 killed, including the composer Enrique Granados.

April 11 – The Egyptian Expeditionary Force begins the occupation of the Sinai Peninsula.

April 11 – The Egyptian Expeditionary Force begins the occupation of the Sinai Peninsula.

Easter Rising

April 24 – The Easter Rising begins in Ireland. Members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood proclaim an Irish Republic, and the Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army occupy the General Post Office and other buildings in Dublin.

April 27 – The 47th Brigade, 16th (Irish) Division at Hulluch in France is decimated, in one of the most heavily concentrated German gas attacks of the war.

April 27 – The 47th Brigade, 16th (Irish) Division at Hulluch in France is decimated, in one of the most heavily concentrated German gas attacks of the war.

EASTER RISING DUBLIN

April 29 – The Easter Rising ends, as republican commanders issue an order for all companies to surrender.

April 29 – The Siege of Kut ends with the surrender of British forces to the Ottoman Empire, at Kut-al-Amara on the Tigris in Basra Vilayet.

April 29 – The Siege of Kut ends with the surrender of British forces to the Ottoman Empire, at Kut-al-Amara on the Tigris in Basra Vilayet.

May 16 - Britain and France conclude the secret Sykes–Picot Agreement, which is to divide Arab areas of the Ottoman Empire into French and British spheres of influence.

May 16 – Britain and France conclude the secret Sykes–Picot Agreement, which is to divide Arab areas of the Ottoman Empire into French and British spheres of influence.

May 16 - United States Marines invade the Dominican Republic.

May 16 – United States Marines invade the Dominican Republic.

May 31 – The Battle of Jutland, between the British Royal Navy and the Imperial German Navy, the war's only large-scale clash of battleships, begins - the result is inconclusive.

May 31 – The Battle of Jutland, between the British Royal Navy and the Imperial German Navy, the war’s only large-scale clash of battleships, begins – the result is inconclusive.

June 4 – The Brusilov Offensive, the height of Russian operations in the war, begins with their breaking through Austro-Hungarian lines.

June 4 – The Brusilov Offensive, the height of Russian operations in the war, begins with their breaking through Austro-Hungarian lines.

June 5 – HMS Hampshire sinks, having hit a mine off the Orkney Islands, Scotland, with Lord Kitchener aboard.

June 5 – HMS Hampshire sinks, having hit a mine off the Orkney Islands, Scotland, with Lord Kitchener aboard.

June 10 - The Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire is formally declared by Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca.

June 10 – The Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire is formally declared by Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca.

July 1 - On the first day of The Battle of The Somme around 30,000 British, French and German soldiers are killed

July 1 – On the first day of The Battle of The Somme around 30,000 British, French and German soldiers are killed

July 15 – Battle of Delville Wood – 766 men from the South African Brigade are killed, in South Africa's biggest loss during the First World War.

July 15 – Battle of Delville Wood – 766 men from the South African Brigade are killed, in South Africa’s biggest loss during the First World War.

July 29 – In Ontario, Canada, a lightning strike ignites a forest fire that destroys the towns of Cochrane and Matheson, killing 233.

July 29 – In Ontario, Canada, a lightning strike ignites a forest fire that destroys the towns of Cochrane and Matheson, killing 233.

July 30 – German agents cause the Black Tom explosion in Jersey City, New Jersey, an act of sabotage destroying an ammunition depot and killing at least 7 people.

July 30 – German agents cause the Black Tom explosion in Jersey City, New Jersey, an act of sabotage destroying an ammunition depot and killing at least 7 people.

August 5 – At the Battle of Romani British Imperial troops secure victory over a joint Ottoman-German force.

August 5 – At the Battle of Romani British Imperial troops secure victory over a joint Ottoman-German force.

Front Of The Piggly Wiggly Store

September 6 – The first true self-service grocery store, Piggly Wiggly, is founded in Memphis, Tennessee, by Clarence Saunders.

September 11 – A mechanical failure causes the central span of the Quebec Bridge to crash into the Saint Lawrence River for the second time, killing 13 workers.

September 11 – A mechanical failure causes the central span of the Quebec Bridge to crash into the Saint Lawrence River for the second time, killing 13 workers.

September 13 – Mary, a circus elephant, is hanged in the town of Erwin, Tennessee for killing her handler, Walter 'Red' Eldridge.

September 13 – Mary, a circus elephant, is hanged in the town of Erwin, Tennessee for killing her handler, Walter ‘Red’ Eldridge.

September 15 – Battle of Flers–Courcelette - significant for the first use of the tank in warfare and for the debut of the Canadian and New Zealand Divisions in The Somme.

September 15 – Battle of Flers–Courcelette – significant for the first use of the tank in warfare and for the debut of the Canadian and New Zealand Divisions in The Somme.

September 27 – Iyasu V of Ethiopia is deposed in a palace coup, in favour of his aunt Zewditu.

September 27 – Iyasu V of Ethiopia is deposed in a palace coup, in favour of his aunt Zewditu.

October 21 – Friedrich Adler shoots and kills Count Karl von Stürgkh, Minister-President of Austria.

October 21 – Friedrich Adler shoots and kills Count Karl von Stürgkh, Minister-President of Austria.

November 5 - An armed confrontation in Everett, Washington, between local authorities and members of the Industrial Workers of the World results in seven deaths.

November 5 – An armed confrontation in Everett, Washington, between local authorities and members of the Industrial Workers of the World results in seven deaths.

November 7 - In The U.S. presidential election, Democratic President Woodrow Wilson narrowly defeats Republican Charles E. Hughes.

November 7 – In The U.S. presidential election, Democratic President Woodrow Wilson narrowly defeats Republican Charles E. Hughes.

November 7 - Republican Jeannette Rankin of Montana becomes the first woman elected to the United States House of Representatives.

November 7 – Republican Jeannette Rankin of Montana becomes the first woman elected to the United States House of Representatives.

November 18 – After 5 months and nearly half a million British casualties, BEF commander Douglas Haig calls off the Battle of the Somme.

November 18 – After 5 months and nearly half a million British casualties, BEF commander Douglas Haig calls off the Battle of the Somme.

November 21 - Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria dies of pneumonia at the Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, aged 86, after a reign of 68 years and is succeeded by his grandnephew Charles I.

November 21 – Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria dies of pneumonia at the Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, aged 86, after a reign of 68 years and is succeeded by his grandnephew Charles I.

November 23 – Bucharest, the capital of Romania, is occupied by troops of the Central Powers.

November 23 – Bucharest, the capital of Romania, is occupied by troops of the Central Powers.

December 12 – 'White Friday' in the Dolomites - 100 avalanches bury 18,000 Austrian and Italian soldiers.

December 12 – ‘White Friday’ in the Dolomites – 100 avalanches bury 18,000 Austrian and Italian soldiers.

December 18 – The Battle of Verdun ends in France with German troops defeated.

December 18 – The Battle of Verdun ends in France with German troops defeated.

December 22 – The British Sopwith Camel aircraft makes its maiden flight. It is designed to counter the German Fokker aircraft.

December 22 – The British Sopwith Camel aircraft makes its maiden flight. It is designed to counter the German Fokker aircraft.

December 30 - The mystic Grigori Rasputin is murdered in Saint Petersburg.

December 30 – The mystic Grigori Rasputin is murdered in Saint Petersburg.