Thursday, 30 October 2014

Ceux de 14 - the critics speak!

With the first episodes of Ceux de 14 having been broadcast on France 3 earlier this week, the critics have now had their say.

Télé-Loisirs: 'a good reconstruction of war', but overall the cast 'was rather wooden'; on the other hand Théo Frilet, as Genevoix was 'convincing'. Overall: Very Good

Télé 2 Semaines: 'convincing casting', but also thought they were 'rather wooden'. Overall: Quite Good

Télé Z: 'we lived, suffered and wept with these soldiers serving during the Great War'. Overall: Excellent

Télé Poche: 'faithful to the original book'. Overall: Good

TV Grandes Chaines: 'a bold production' with 'convincing actors'. Overall: Very Good.

Télé 7 Jours: 'the series is a noteworthy tribute to a generation that was sacrificed', played by 'outstanding actors'. Overall: Good

Télé Star: Overall: Good

So ... 'could be better' by the sound of things; but likewise, could be a lot worse (and we've seen plenty of those over the years!). I'll still be watching.

The quotes and stills come from TV-Premières here; thanks to Jeeves for the reference

Update 4 November: I watched the first two episodes on TV5 last night, and yes, it was 'good'. First episodes are always tricky, because there is so much back story to get in for the viewer that knows nothing about the period, but I thought it was slightly too episodic to get a real sense of all the characters. Lovers of explosions will have been disappointed, because there was little in the way of set-piece action - it certainly didn't build into the action in the same way that Band of Brothers did, for example. And on one occasion, our hero Genevoix becomes isolated behind German lines following an enemy attack; but the next scene has him strolling into his platoon's lines as if nothing much had happened. So, a qualified success. Will I watch the rest? Oh yes. Should you? Yes.

Another update 11 November: the third and fourth episodes were broadcast last night. Episode 4 is largely concerned with the fighting at Les Eparges in late 1914 / early 1915; a clip of the set-piece assault is on YouTube here. The poster says this is by no means the most interesting episode because it is largely concerned with combat - imagine, a film about war that includes actual fighting! Who'd'a thunk it? The opening credits of episode 1 can be viewed here.

Another update 18 November: the fifth and sixth, final, episodes were broadcast on Monday evening. One by one, the soldiers we have introduced to are killed in action at Les Eparges. The final episode reprises the attack that opens episode 1, and it concludes with Genevoix being shot three times as he goes to rescue one of his men under fire. You are left wondering if he would die of his wounds; in real life, Genevoix was so badly wounded, he was invalided out of the army after seven months in various hospitals, was assessed at 70% disability, and permanently lost the use of his left hand.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

A new project: Charles Delvert

As Kings of the Air winds down to a conclusion (page proof checking and indexing going on as we speak ... er, type ... er, wotevva), a new project appears on the horizon, once again with those nice people at Pen & Sword.

My new project is the first translation into English of the Great War memoirs of Charles Delvert, Carnets d'un fantassin (An Infantryman's Diary).

Over the next weeks and months, rather than publish extracts hot from the translations face, I'll use the blog to explore Delvert's world, that of his regiment (the 101st Infantry), and the battles in which it took part, using war diaries and other contemporary material. Although I might use the occasional translation, just as a taster!

All this and a new look for the blog pages. It's all go here at Sumner Towers!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Ceux de 14 reaches the screen

In a previous post, I mentioned that preparations were under way to adapt Maurice Genevoix's novel Ceux de 14 for television. The novel has now been adapted into six 52-minute episodes, the first of which is to be broadcast on France 3 on 28 October. Those of us who cannot receive France 3 will have to wait until it appears on TV5 Monde (channel 796 on your Sky box, but Freeview watchers are doomed to disappointment). The good news is that it starts on 3 November at 1835 (other times in other continents), according to TV5's website.

The French Allociné site tries to tempt you with the idea that the series will be a French Band of Brothers. In the way of internet comments section everywhere, a number of public comments laugh at the idea - whoever heard of positive comments on a webpage?

Certainly, the novel relies on a single point of view - it's Genevoix who tells the story - rather than the multiple points of the US series, so the two are not directly comparable. The footage of individual veterans used at the start of each Band of Brothers episode also gave that series an emotional impact that Ceux de 14 cannot possibly have, since Genevoix and his comrades are all long in their graves. But the idea of following a small group of soldiers through the conflict holds good. In an article in Le Monde, the director Olivier Chatzky insists, 'With Genevoix's pen, each soldier is an individual, each portrait complete. There is a dignity in his writing, and throughout this project, it has almost been a public service to counter the cliche of the mass anonymity of the conflict. In this series, we follow a small group of lads under the orders of the young sous-lieutenant Genevoix.'

A short trailer is available here; a slightly longer one here. A Youtube clip here depicts a combat from early in the conflict. A large number of stills are shown on the Centenaire 14-18 website here.

Théo Frilet (on the left), the actor who plays Genevoix (on the right), received the best newcomer prize at the Luchon Festival 2014 for his role. I think the former's moustache perhaps needs a little work ...

Much of the series was filmed in the east of France, around Thierville-sur-Meuse. Stories charting the creation of the series, taken from the local newspaper, the Est-Republicain, are linked to from the Verdun-Meuse website here.

Illustrations: the top picture and that of Frilet both come from the Séries Mania website; the photo of actors and crew came from the Le Monde article; the book cover a webfind; the photo of Genevoix from the excellent Ceux de 14 blog, which contains many articles and much information about the author and his writing career.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Here we are, here we are, here we are again!

After an unconscionable lay-off, it may be time to resuscitate this blog.

Although it may not be universally popular

Since June: 
The proofs (not quite galley-proofs, but a manuscript produced from my computer file) of my most recent book, Kings of the Air: French aces and airmen of the Great War, came, got checked, and were then sent back. I'm now waiting for the page proofs. Once those are returned then it's full steam ahead for publication sometime in the New Year.

Meanwhile, in an unrelated development, I wandered into the bookshop in the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum in Vienna, to find some of my previous books on sale, but translated into Czech. Well, I never.

No, never. Not even once. They spelled my forename wrong with the French Army book, as Jan rather than Ian, but that's OK, because my Czech is non-existant.

I should be able to get back on something approaching my old weekly schedule for next week, with updates of previous posts, and news of a new project. And, since I missed the 10,000 page views milestone (thanks, everyone), a bit more eye-candy in the form of posters and other artwork.

The stills are from the 1931 version of Frankenstein.