December 6, 2006


It's a Great Story, But Is It History? (GRADY HENDRIX, December 6, 2006, NY Sun)

The hallowed Greatest Generation is a tent big enough to include even the French, so long as they're resistance fighters striking back against their Nazi oppressors. But is America ready to include soldiers who are both Frenchmen and Arab Muslims? This is the brief for "Days of Glory," a massive World War II film about France's colonial forces â€" mostly North African Muslims â€" who fought in the vineyards of Provence and Italy to liberate a motherland that had never given them anything but grief. [...]

"Days of Glory" is not a bad movie. The battle scenes are actually far more coherent than those in "Saving Private Ryan," the gold standard for Greatest Generation war porn. And not once is this flick hard on the eyes or ears, but it's nothing you need to think very hard or long about.

It's also a whitewash. The actual history of France's colonial forces is full of accusation and counter-accusation. The movie portrays the Italian campaign as an unvarnished triumph carried out by noble Arabs, but it ignores the alleged aftermath: a rape-and-murder spree conducted against the civilian population and memorialized in Vittoria de Sica's "La Ciociara," which won Sophia Loren an Oscar for Best Actress in 1960.

These alleged atrocities were followed in turn by the execution of hundreds of colonial soldiers, many of whom received no trial and were seemingly convicted for the color of their skin. The French government denies any of this ever happened and it may not have, but there's obviously a far more complex, tragic, and adult tale to be told than the earnest, PC propaganda offered up in "Days of Glory."

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 6, 2006 8:05 AM
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