Overlord (Stuart Cooper, 1975)

Part Imperial War Museum archival documentary, part impressionistic meditation on mortality, part traditional war narrative, this film really is like nothing that came before or, one thinks, will come after. Its gestation–director Stuart Cooper and cinematographer John Alcott tried obsessively, using vintage cameras and lenses, to match the scratch and blur of their contemporary-shot footage to the millions (?!) of feet of WWII footage (much of it flammable nitrate stock) Cooper screened over the course of four years–would lead one to believe this is nothing more than an anal-retentive docudrama. Weirdly, the addition of -drama adds to the accuracy of the docu-, but what lingers is the poetic lyricism in all the footage unspooling before our eyes: the frenetic joy in the barracks, the kinetic energy of the machines of war, and the terror of calm in the eyes of boys at war.

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