Saturday, September 1, 2007

Paths of Glory

Paths of Glory; Drama, USA, 1957; D: Stanley Kubrick, S: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready, Joe Turkel

World War I. German and French troops are clashing with each other. French General Broulard orders his subordinate, General Mireau, to capture a fortress on the hill in 24 hours, which he accepts after hearing he will get a promotion. Colonel Dax is against that assault because he regards it as a suicide mission, but since he doesn't have a choice he starts the attack. The soldiers suffer a terrible defeat while half of them even didn't leave their trench from fear, so Mireau orders the bombing of their own trenches to force them out. Infuriated, Mireau picks three soldiers and sentences them to death for cowardliness. Dax protests and defends them on the court, but they still get executed. Later Dax accuses Mireau for treason and watches his soldiers in a bar.

Excellent drama "Paths of Glory" with a wonderful performance by Kirk Douglas in the role of humane Colonel Dax who speaks idealistic sentences (like "Patriotism is the last resort of scoundrels" or "I apologize, sir, for not telling you sooner that you're a degenerate, sadistic old man. And you can go to hell before I apologize to you now or ever again! ") caused a lot of hype and attention, resulting in a BAFTA nomination for best film. Competent Stanley Kubrick directs the first half of "Paths of Glory" brilliantly, with juicy long Steadicam movements and expressive action sequences, but in the second half the films turns into a complete opposite, into an quiet, static and tranquil court drama revolving around the legal defence of the three accused soldiers in a trial: because of the touching, emotional, dramatically engaging structure and even idealistic rhetoric, that second half really doesn't seem like a real Kubrick film, yet it displays the director in a neat departure from his cold mood. It's not surprising the film was banned on French territory for some time: the story displays greedy French generals who put 3 soldiers on trial and sentenced them to death just because they didn't succeed in combat, while Colonel Dax even says: "Sometimes I'm ashamed to be a member of human race". The story shows rather the consequences and aftermath of war than war itself, which was shown rather scarcely, and Kubrick himself said it wasn't so much anti-war as it is anti-authoritarian ignorance. Even though it is surprisingly humane for Kubrick, the story also secretly shares the director's pessimistic view on human kind, this time in their arrogance, greed and readiness to accuse others for their failure. Obviously, despite the static second half, Kubrick once again continued his path for glory with ease.


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