Monday, December 17, 2012

Oh, those Traveltalks shorts again

TCM yesterday showed two more Traveltalks shorts I hadn't seen before: Rural Hungary from 1939, and Picturesque South Africa from 1937. Neither of them is on DVD; I think I've suggested several times in the past that the Traveltalks shorts would make good extras for other movies, much in the way that TCM shows them to go along with movies set in the same area.

Watching Rural Hungary, it was of course a bit sad to think about what was going to happen to the country in the very near future: first World War II, followed by the Communist revolution destroying tradition agriculture as the Hungarian rural population knew it. Of course, I doubt the way James A. Fitzpatrick presented Hungarian rural life was all that close to the way the Hungarians themselves would have known it. And what was with the shoulders on those traditional female dresses, and the sleeves on the male shirts? Parts of the outfits certainly looked colorful, but they also looked mighty inconvenient.

Picturesque South Africa was even more interesting for all the wrong reasons. I don't know exactly how much worse than, say, the US, race relations were in South Africa back in the 1930s. Not to suggest that they were good, but the laws that would officially become the apartheid policy were not actually put into place until 1948. Still, I can't think Fitzpatrick's presentation of South Africa is anything but ludicrous. The black rickshaw drivers in Durban were really happy doing this backbreaking work as their lot in life? And when it came to the depiction of "tribal" life, I wonder if the people he put on film were asked what they thought about their lives. That would make for an interesting short.

A third Traveltalks short, 1935's Modern Tokyo, is showing tonight after Destination Tokyo, so a little after 10:15 PM. This is of course well before the US went to war with Japan (the war was already going on in China) -- it's not as if they could have filmed in Japan during the war, after all! So it's going to be interesting to see Japan as James A. Fitzpatrick conceived it in 1935.

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