Kingly Spycraft, Notre Dame, and Roy Lichtenstein | Real Reels

A glimpse into King George VI's WWII espionage, a deep dive into Notre Dame's past and present, and a consideration of art theft vs. appropriation are among the subjects of this month's must-see documentaries.

The King Who Fooled Hitler. 50 min. PBS. 2019. DVD UPC 4188704622. $24.99.

During wars, disinformation is a key component for all sides to get the advantage over the enemy. In Paul Elston’s film, England’s King George VI plays a role in that trickery during World War II. At the outbreak of the war, MI5 viewed the king with suspicion, worried about pro-appeasement beliefs or Nazi sympathies. After Winston Churchill was convinced that the king could be trusted, he became a key cog in the bamboozling of German intelligence regarding one of the most important subterfuges of the war—the location of the D-Day invasion. The film is chock-full of terrific details, showing how the public face of spycraft can be just as deceptive as deep-cover espionage. VERDICT For WWII buffs and those interested in the English monarchy.

Rebuilding Notre Dame. 55 min. PBS. 2022. DVD UPC 4188704686. $24.99.

In April of 2019, a fire ravaged one of the most treasured places in Paris—Notre Dame Cathedral, one of Gothic architecture’s great wonders, visited by over 12 million people a year. The fate of Notre Dame is a massive concern for the French nation. Upwards of a billion dollars will be spent to restore it during a complex and ambitious multi-year project. While the cutting-edge science employed during restoration is interesting, just as fascinating is how, through the restoration process, new information is being learned about the unique elements that were used to build or alter the cathedral during its lifespan. VERDICT Watch the iconic French cathedral come back to life while learning about its origins.

The Story of Film: A New Generation. 167 min. Hopscotch Films. 2022. DVD UPC 5177895178. $29.99.

A decade after Mark Cousins’s epic, influential The Story of Film: An Odyssey, he returns with an expansive look at cinema from 2010 to 2021. Featuring discussions of more than 100 films, Cousins combines clips and philosophical, erudite narration to reveal layers of originality, daring, passion, and other aspects of life rendered into images on screens in theaters around the globe. In his world, film is “Art” with a capital “A.” Across all genres and happily veering outside mainstream movies, Cousins poetically contemplates the wondrous power of films in ways that will have viewers making a lengthy list of movies to watch soon. VERDICT This is essential viewing for anyone who loves the magical dreamland of cinema.

Whaam! Blam! Roy Lichtenstein and the Art of Appropriation. 78 min. Virgil Films. 2022. DVD UPC 2956714032. $19.99.

The word “appropriation” is not a word an artist or writer wants attached to their work. For Roy Lichtenstein, forget appropriation: there are accusations of plagiarism or outright theft in his groundbreaking early 1960s pop art paintings, which are now sold at auction for over $100 million. In this documentary, director James L. Hussey attempts to cover all the bases—the ethics, the legality—and finds people who stand with Lichtenstein or against him. The fact that there is not a clear-cut answer shows how differently appropriation is viewed in the art and comic-book worlds. That ambiguity makes for a good documentary subject that could inspire lots of further discussion after viewing. VERDICT Journey into the hazy, complicated ideas of appropriation vs. theft in the art world.


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