One of the activities planned for this year’s KVIFF will take place in the town of Sokolov: a commemorative ceremony dedicated to Sam Fuller, veteran of the American army’s 1st Infantry Division. Fuller’s advance during the Second World War came to a climax in Czechoslovakia’s Sokolov region (once bearing the German name Falkenau), and it would be more than 30 years before he realized the film version of the horrific events he lived through in the first week of May 1945. The Big Red One, one of the most celebrated war films of the 20th century, was drastically cut at the time of its creation, and unfortunately Fuller didn’t live to see its well-deserved reconstruction in 2004. An assemblage of vignettes, Fuller’s work exposes the absurdity of war and resoundingly rejects the myth of heroism at any price. Lee Marvin portrays a sergeant of the 1st Infantry Division (the red numeral on the division’s shoulder patch lent the film its title) who leads the four young men entrusted to him on an odyssey across North Africa, Sicily, infamous Omaha Beach, and on to Czechoslovakia. Although the geographic sweep signals an epic blockbuster, Fuller constructed his story on precisely drawn characters and their reactions to events that would cause many a man to lose his mind. –KVIFF
Noted for his tabloid-influenced storytelling style, breathless camera work, and extreme close-ups, Fuller was a pugnacious, tough-as-nails man whose movies reflect a uniquely personal vision; obsessed with themes of falsehood and deception, his films illuminated the cultural divisions at the heart of American society, depicting a grim, immoral world far removed from the placid surface typically on display in more mainstream fare. Celebrated as a genius by his fans, and denounced as a sensationalist by his detractors, Fuller was a deeply patriotic man quick to criticize his country’s flaws, as well as a raw, anarchic filmmaker capable of moments of inexpressible beauty; such contradictions fueled and ultimately defined both him and his body of work, which continues to exert tremendous influence over such prominent filmmakers as Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and Jim Jarmusch. Samuel Michael Fuller was born August 12, 1912, in Worcester, MA, and raised in New York City; at the age… read more
Towards the end of his career Fuller finally got to film his dream project, an autobiographical and anecdotal study of a sergeant leading four of his men through the horrors of World War II from North Africa to the liberation of a death camp. Marvin, himself a combat veteran, was the only choice for the lead role and gives a realistic and at times tender performance in a great war film that lives long in the memory..
Fuller's anecdotal narrative forbids the conceited philosophising of the layperson, traces of which permeate even the top tier of the genre. Instead it plays like a collection of war stories from a veteran seeking alternatively to shock and amuse, its figures imbued with equal veracity in both their warmth and detachment. As a film, it isn't amongst Fuller's very best, but its unaffected authenticity is unmatched.