Saturday, December 07, 2013

Paths of Glory

Ming, Kyle, and I went to Paths of Glory at The Trylon last night, part of their Stanley Kubrick series. It was a very good movie. Exceptionally good.  I was expecting a lot of World War I trench warfare, war-movie fight scenes, but that was only the first part of the movie.  The rest of it centered around three French soldiers being tried as representatives for their comrades, court martialed for cowardice.  Kirk Douglas was exceptional as their colonel and defending lawyer.  It wasn't at all like modern U.S. criminal/court movies.  There wasn't all sorts of surprise and law jargon and twists and a good ending.  Instead it was obvious it was a kangaroo court and the generals were intent on demonstrating to the other soldiers the results of not following orders no matter how insane the objective or the situation.  Even when Kirk Douglas reveals that the commanding general ordered his artillery to fire on his own trenches to force them to move, the three French soldiers are still shot by a firing squad - that twist usually frees the front line soldiers in a US movie.  The only result of the revelation is that the general is tagged for sacrifice - career, not his life - as well.  All the while the generals are partying and drinking and enjoying the French castles.

Just how crazy the generals are is demonstrated by General Broulard who says (the part in bold refers to the general command of superior officers), "Maybe the attack against the Ant Hill was impossible. Perhaps it was an error of judgment on our part. On the other hand, if your men had been a little more daring, you might have taken it. Who knows? Why should we have to bear more criticism and failure than we have to?...These executions will be a perfect tonic for the entire division. There are few things more fundamentally encouraging and stimulating than seeing someone else die...You see, Colonel, troops are like children. Just as a child wants his father to be firm, troops crave discipline. And one way to maintain discipline is to shoot a man now and then."

Way better than a Clint Howard movie.

I strongly recommend reading the Wikipedia article.  Kubrick married the German singer at the end of the movie.  And I didn't realize Blackadder spoofed some of the trial scenes.  The history is fascinating: it wasn't released in France until '75 and Spain until 1986.

No comments: