Saturday, February 8, 2014

Inspiration: Rose Valland, and the Monuments Men


 I have been looking forward to The Monuments Men film opening. I saw it last night and was somewhat disappointed, for several reasons.

 But first, a bit about this amazing woman. Rose Valland had degrees from the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris, and graduate degrees in art history from the Sorbonne and the Ecole du Louvre. She worked her way up the ladder at the Jeu de Paume, to assistant of the museum. 
During World War II, she was the only French person continued to be allowed to work there when the Nazis took it over. They used the museum to store stolen art, mostly from Jewish collectors. She had a front row seat to what they were doing, and, being very unassuming, the Nazis didn't pay much attention to her. They didn't know she spoke German. And they also didn't know she was keeping track of every single piece of art that came and left the museum. She had spies helping her everywhere: drivers, guards, and packers who helped her follow where art was being taken. Eventually she showed her detailed records to one of the Monuments Men, who, once the Allies invaded Germany, took her notes and used them to retrieve much of the art.


Rose did not receive much recognition for her bravery and detailed work. But it wasn't until 1953, after 20 years, that she was at last given the title of curator. She was the inspiration for the film, 'The Train', starring Burt Lancaster (1964), about a train full of stolen art sitting at the station in Paris. She was given the Legion of Honor, the Medal of the French Resistance and was made Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government, and was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the US and the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. She died in 1980, virtually unknown, but one of the most decorated women in France.

So, back to the Monuments Men film.
Cate Blanchett plays Rose Valland in the film. Really? Why not a French actress? And why did they change her name to Claire Simone?
George Clooney wrote the screenplay. As a friend said, it sort of 'Disney-fies' this story. Yep. Too clean, sort of Hogan's Heroes style. Jokey boys group of actors, bumbling along, looking for art. The script doesn't flow, it's just one disjointed scene after another, with lively marching music.
It could have been so much more.

Still, an incredible story. And it's true. Stolen art continues to be found in attics and basements today.


2 comments:

  1. What an amazing story. I'm just watching your great books display flashing by ... I am a fan of Melissa Sweet too! And I agree, why Cate Blanchett?

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  2. Thanks for your comment, Gay. The more I read about this story, the more intrigued I am.

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