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Carnett: Seeing the future on the screen

May 28, 2013|By Jim Carnett

I'm not normally a prescient sort of fellow.

ESP isn't hardwired into my DNA.

But, the other night I felt eerily and unmistakably clairvoyant. I knew what was going to happen before it happened in the lives of others.

No, I didn't see dead people. What I did see, however, was earthshaking in its significance. I could look into the eyes of individuals knowing what would befall them over the coming months and years.

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I was Carnac (err, Carnett) the Magnificent, and my on-target predictions were chilling.

Here's how it went:

As I've made known in this space before, I'm a passionate devotee of classic and foreign films. My go-to cable channel is the ubiquitous (in my household!) Turner Classic Movies (TCM).

The other night I watched the 1939 French film "Le Jour se Leve" ("Daybreak"). The film tells the story of a young factory worker who loses his woman to a vicious schemer.

The work is touted as a classic example of the "poetic realism" film genre.

But my fascination with the flick had nothing to do with its plotline, rising action or turning point. In fact, I paid scant attention to any literary device.

What I chose to focus on were the lives and emotions of the actors themselves. I looked into their faces knowing that their lives were — as my sainted Oklahoma auntie used to say — "fixin' to change!"

Presumably, the actors were living off-camera existences in places like Paris, Deauville and Marseilles. And those lives, I noted to myself as I watched the film, would soon be changing drastically, and not for the better. Yet, their faces showed no hint of anticipation.

Work on the movie set — like every other sector of the French economy — apparently went forward in 1939 even as the clouds of war built along the Franco-German frontier. The crazed Nazi leader with the postage stamp mustache and bad comb over was making outrageous rants before huge crowds in places like Nuremberg, Munich and Berlin. His words would soon directly affect the lives of everyone working on the film — and living on the planet.

The film was released in June 1939, three months before the German military juggernaut invaded, smashed and subjugated Poland. Eight months later, in May of 1940, Germany turned its rapacious cruelty on France. German forces took Paris in June, and the nation was divided into a north and west zone, occupied by the Nazis, and a southern zone run by the collaborationist Vichy regime.

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