Friday, September 3, 2010
Time Marches ... Backward!
New York Times
September 2, 2010
I’ve learned to shrug off some fairly ignominious baggage associated with being a resident of New Jersey: the Burr-Hamilton duel, the Hindenburg disaster, “Jersey Shore,” the Nets’ 2009-10 season. But the news that my state was once part of the Third Reich — that was an unsettling surprise.
It’s one of the odd bits of trivia that emerge from the fresh look being taken at The March of Time, a series of short films created from 1935 to 1951, an era when people expected more than just previews and a feature when they settled into their movie theater seats. The Museum of Modern Art is in the midst of a week and a half of screenings of these illuminating curiosities, and on Sunday night TCM (in conjunction with HBO Archives) is showing a four-hour marathon of them, introduced by the film historian Robert Osborne.
It’s hard to know today even what to call these films. (Raymond Fielding, a retired college educator who wrote a book about the series, told me that roughly 290 were made.) “Newsreels” seems inadequate; they are longer, more detailed and much more opinionated than the standard-issue newsreels that preceded them. “Documentaries” is closer, but the blaring orchestrations and outlandish voice-overs sound nothing like a modern documentary.