Saturday, January 15, 2011

UFA versus Hollywood: or, what Archie Hickox was talking about...

I'm reading Klaus Kreimeier's The UFA Story: A History of Germany's Greatest Film Company 1918-1945, because I've been very interested in Nazi Germany art and culture for a while and the way the state interacted with artists beyond mere censorship. Watching Inglourious Basterds again, which briefly touched on the way UFA tried to be both a branch of the entertainment industry and of the propaganda industry, definitely piqued that interest, but there have been other factors as well.

Spotts' Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics already touched on the visual arts in Nazi Germany and Richard Evans' The Third Reich at War touched on the performing arts, though Evans is most interested in statistics of consumption, production and attendance. It wasn't until I recently watched the fascinating Goebbels Experiment on Netflix Instant Viewing and heard some of Goebbels' attempts at film criticism that I got an idea of how seriously the party (or Goebbels, at least) took the integration of art and propaganda in the film industry.

[A side note: only after watching The Goebbels Experiment did I get an idea of how unrepresentative of UFA's work Nation's Pride is. For the sake of the film, I understand why it ends up being a weird Samuel Fuller-esque shoot-out, but, at least judging from the clips of Uncle Krueger and Kolberg the documentary displays, UFA's directors seemed capable of some expressionism, but never such frenetic usage of editing and montage.]

I'm probably going to be blogging about it as I read, but right off the bat, what is most striking is how the early German film industry came down to a fight between big industrial interests and the military. Heaven knows Hollywood ended up being a giant collectivist trust, but it was never so heavily tied to the government and the corporatist state as the early German film industry was.  On top of that, both sides of that fight are conservative or right-wing, but in different ways.

More to come...