7.01.2010

Graphic Novel Of The Month

Moving Pictures (Top Shelf): The first page of Kathryn and Stuart Immonen’s WWII era tale is a stark image that serves as the perfect introduction to the tone of the book. Though the black and white art is devoid of any accompanying text, it is full of storytelling information and an appropriately somber mood. The story that follows revolves around the relationship between Ila Gardner and Rolf Hauptmann, tracing through both their personal dalliance and their professional positions on opposing sides of the Nazi war machine and its conquest of prized works of art in European museums. The systematically looted works are located in cities which have fallen to the Germans and then surreptitiously relocated to mysterious rally points elsewhere. It was a brilliant touch to depict major works of art being used not only as figurative backdrops for the story, but literal ones as well. Often times, we can see the referenced works past the foreground of the conversation taking place. Moving Pictures is filled with the palpable uncertainty of war, and what it must have felt like in Europe during the early 1940’s. It’s easy to dismiss now since we’re well aware of the outcome and it’s been portrayed with such moral certainty in countless Hollywood films, but living in Paris during this time period filled with only a sense of the depressive unknown is a difficult thing to pull off on paper, but this blind hopelessness, sorrow, and confusion is captured well. Amid the conflict, there is an ideological war taking place along with the physical one, which is best captured by the line “modern civilizations have no respect for history.” As an objective outsider looking back through the lens of history, you’d hope that these precious master works would somehow be above the fray, but unfortunately they’re smack dab in the middle of it. They’re just another consumable resource to plunder, the pragmatic reality destroying the artistic ideal. The Immonens are able to relay this intense drive to preserve history when the world around the characters is crumbling before their eyes. They frantically pack crates and catalogue the inventory, with rolling tanks and political hypocrisy the only soundtrack to their actions. I’m not sure if Kathryn Immonen was solely responsible for the script, it’s probably likely that the collaborating couple worked it back and forth, but the result is a penchant for intelligent banter, puns, double entendre, and self-referential wit. The dialogue deftly moves back and forth between the main thrust of the story, high brow art jokes, and more base human motivations. It’s interesting how some of the characters identify with the pieces of art themselves, wanting to feel loved and important. The war around them creates such psychological upheaval that it actually inverts the human desire to be unique. The characters, like the art, no longer wish to stand out and be noticed, simply fade into the wall in obscurity. As Ila whispers to the “Girl With Red Hair” painting, “I covet your invisibility.” Moving Pictures uses the duplicitous relationship of “lovers, spies, or both?” as a symbolic representation of the larger real life story that surrounded this coveted art, which is the ideological clash between realism and idealism. Grade A.

2 Comments:

At 10:31 AM, Blogger Matt C said...

Excellent review, Justin, and you managed to get to this before I did! I have a copy put aside but there's been a bit of deluge of monthly titles for me the last couple of weeks, so my wallet dictated it stay unsold for a while longer. Very much looking forward to reading it now though.

 
At 8:10 PM, Blogger Justin said...

Thanks, Matt!

 

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