at the Caen Memorial, the youth of the GI's to discover

at the Caen Memorial, the youth of the GI's to discover

A very rich temporary exhibition recounts the developments and tensions in America in the 1920s and 1030s, to better immerse us in the cultural universe of the American soldiers who participated in the liberation of Europe.

Red carpet, cozy atmosphere, the entrance to the Caen Memorial exhibition resembles that of a cinema… Logical, because “during this period between the two wars, from the “Kid” to the “Dictator” by Charlie Chaplin, American culture is defined and told through films” explains Kleber Arhoul, director and general curator of this temporary tour dedicated to the America in which the GIs who will land on the beaches of Normandy on the 6th grew up. June 1944. In fact, with a Hollywood production of 10,000 films over the period, cinema, a very popular leisure activity, is also the constant reflection of reality, and constitutes the intelligent common thread of this rich journey, punctuated by posters, costumes and accessories, film extracts….

“While everyone is celebrating the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings,” adds the director, “we have chosen to take a step aside by evoking the lives of these young people and their cultural universe.” To connect the topic to current events, visitors, in the atrium leading to the exhibition, will have been able to watch for a few minutes a film showing a mass celebrated on June 3, 1944 for the allied troops. The camera lingers on the serious and concentrated faces of these soldiers who have not yet disembarked.

The route begins with a first window displaying a boat ticket, a sign of the return home in 1919 of the four million soldiers engaged in the First World War. This did not happen without clashes: segregation and the racial riots in Chicago, recalled by photographs, immediately caught up with the African-American soldiers, despite a victorious parade in New York. Prosperity of the Roaring Twenties, prohibition of alcohol, female emancipation, development of the consumer society… each aspect of the period is evoked for its brilliance as well as its setbacks. Thus, an impressive costume of a member of the Ku Klux Klan whose influence then increased, alongside advertisements for jazz clubs where the avant-garde of black musicians expressed themselves; junk jewelry worn by silent film stars that make you dream, does not prevent advertising from praising vacuum cleaners to housewives.

The visitor can wander freely between the display cases, and move from one theme to another, listening to short video interviews with the collectors who have lent the numerous objects. All the ingredients of the American Way of Life are coming into place as the USA asserts itself as an essential world power.

Then came the terrible 1930s: striking images of anonymous people photographed by great artists evoke poverty and the flight to the West during the Great Depression, a consequence of the stock market crisis of 1929. Then we move on to politics of the New Deal led by President Franklin D. Roosevelt _ curiously evoked in hologram form _ from 1933.

The last part recounts the rise in international tensions until the United States entered the war, forced to abandon isolationism. While posters call for the war effort, a child's embroidered jacket movingly illustrates the internment camps for Japanese Americans. We will also remember the two costumes from the cult film Casablanca (1942) and especially the American banner then displayed in each parish, with a star for each GI's engaged, the star becoming bright if he falls in combat.

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