Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Jigsaw Post #1

I couldn't think of a good post title, so I just went with the name of the puzzles that annoyed the bejesus out of me as a child. Since we're basically trying to piece together just what the hell EC found, it seems appropriate.

First up, I don't have a Russian dictionary/Cyrillic type pack installed on this computer, so can anyone translate this? The same goes for the text that opens the film. I have a feeling both could be of enormous help.

I have an overall impression of the film, but I want to get there after making note of a few things.

1. This looks to be fairly standard WWII-era tank; the profile looks pretty much like a T-34, so going off the other cues/clues from the film, let's just assume it's that.

2. This scene shows a soldier running down a trench. Also, all the soldiers seem to be wearing gas masks. While there was significant entrenchment in Stalingrad and the siege of Leningrad, these images really seem like throwbacks to WWI — especially since they're combined. On their own, they don't signify much, but together they seem like artistic choices deliberately meant to evoke a memory of Great War-style warfare.

3. That said, while the first two pictures ground us in WWI and the early years of WWII at the latest, this image establishes that this video can't pre-date 1945.

4. The presence of the balloon, though, makes me reluctant to date this much later. And this is a significant reach on my part, so feel free to call me on it. The thing looks like it's delivering a bomb payload, but why? Balloons are incredibly unreliable, and the bomb could wind up anywhere. No country is going to go to the balloon (pardon the totally inappropriate metaphor) well if they have access to supersonic jets; the value you get out of a balloon is so much less than a jet delivery of a bomb. So that makes me want to date this no earlier than 1945 but no later than 1948 — 1949 at the latest.

5. This actually looks like a souped-up B-29 or an end-of-war prototype for a super-fortress style bomber. Actually, what it really reminds me of is the Spruce Goose, only with four fewer engines. The important distinction here is that it's very reminiscent of American bomber designs. That's actually helpful, because it only helps further anchor this film in the immediate post-war period. If you'll recall, both Lend-Lease and our open allied partnership with the USSR from 1941-1945 saw American arms shipped to the Soviet Union en masse. There was no shortage of Douglas and Lockheed aircraft in the Soviet Air Force and Army support, so it would make sense for Russian artists to go with what they knew. What they knew was a lot of American designs. It would make sense to date this video in a period before the two Air Forces significantly diverged.

6. I literally have no idea what this guy is doing, but I've been watching a lot of Pushing Daisies lately, so every time I watched this video (which was about a round ten, trying to figure it out), I thought, "Meanwhile, The Piemaker...." So that's who this guy is: The Piemaker.

As I've said, I don't see any reason to date this later than 1949 at the very latest, and because of the balloon technology and absence of jets, I really want to date this film to 1945-6. Remember the old adage: generals always fight the last war. Consumed with the desire to correct the mistakes they made last time, they make mistakes by ignoring the new details of this time. Artists make the same mistakes. They always have difficulty envisioning the next conflict (the few who don't are the real geniuses), and because of that they tend to describe what they just saw. The presence of WWI-era gas masks and trenches and WWII-era tanks and propeller planes date this as the product of the Second World War or its immediate aftermath. The presence of an atomic mushroom cloud gives us a hard date of 1945 at the earliest.

I have no idea what this video is for, just yet. Anything I say would be wildly off-base and just what I want to hear. Right now, though, the only supposition I feel comfortable with is that this is either:
a. A recap of WWII, in instructional form, maybe meant for the civilian populace's education/entertainment.

b. An immediate post-war video meant to show the Soviet Union's continued mobilization for war and readiness for national defense.
Of course, a lot of that speculation hinges on what this guy is here for:

Right now, I don't know. Something about him doesn't sit right with me at the moment.

Either way, that's my speech. What do you guys think?


ex.contrail said...

hell yeah, G! thats why we keep you around! good stuff!

youve given me a ton to think about...so i think im going to watch that a few more times and sleep on it...try to come up with something to argue with you about and see if we cant get some more good thoughts out there

also im DEFINITELY going to andy's place when i get off work and see about shooting some more footage than what ive got...this is really cool stuff, and i should try to get more. i already need to be up near his neighborhood anyway, so theres no way im not dropping in and using the projector

L-Scott said...

Awesome. Glad to know more's coming, EC.

Stunning, stunning job as always, Meester GFK.

IT needed to get brung, and you brung it. Brung it with a fury.

I have to say I'm thinking about this video very differently now.

But just to warn you, I'm going to make a post in a few, here, because I think there are some important observations you overlooked. Just a heads up.

For now, great job!

stir.max.alot said...

george, just a thought: have you considered whether this could be anti-nuke propaganda? if the dates are as right as you think they are, then that would put the film in a period where the russians didn't have nukes, so this might be their attack on them to discourage other nations from using them or condoning them. just a thought.

George F.K. said...

Thanks very much, guys. I'm pleased you liked it. I was a little worried while I was doing my writeup that maybe I was half-assing it a little bit. I felt like I could have put in some more links and thought harder about a few things, but in the end you guys hopped all over the stuff I missed.

Specifically Max. Excellent call. I'm really ashamed that I didn't think of it, because that's a really good insight. I'll have to think about that for a while. Thanks very much; you've given me something to kick about my brain for the rest of the day.

I'm looking forward to your post, LS. (On the blog. Let's try to keep it clean here. I know what you were just thinking.)

Also thrilled to hear you'll be uploading more stuff, EC. Thank you!

ex.contrail said...


sorry guys, im not going to have anything new up tonight. i only just got out of work a couple hours ago...this fucking client totally changed everything on a project midway through...everyone had to juggle 10 differnt things to try to keep on schedule and meet the new plan. i just went straight home

will do my best tomorrow to get new stuff up here...sorry about this...need food, drink, bed

George F.K. said...

Don't worry about it at all, EC. Everyone gets last-minute headaches. Especially at this time of the year. Coming off Thanksgiving, heading into Christmas and the end of the year you get both work deadlines and family beating down your door. Plus you've got to make travel plans and buy gifts for everyone, and it just gets overwhelming. Even if you didn't have anything else on your plate but the regular end-of-year grind, I think we'd all totally understand. But as it is, you're doing yeoman service with this filmstrip, so I think everyone will give you even more leeway. You do what you have to do; your friends will be fine, because they're your friends.

With that said, I'm going to go put on my cardigan now and wait for Mr. McFeely to bring the mail.