Sunday 2 October 2011

Paths of Glory [1957]

Adapted from Humphrey Cobb’s novel, Paths of Glory was one of three memorable anti-war movies made by Stanley Kubrick; yet tonally the three were poles apart. While Dr. Strangelove was a farcical satire of the highest order and Full Metal Jacket was part vitriolic and part sentimental, Paths of Glory was bleak, austere and minimalist. The movie, filmed in the tradition of cinéma vérité, was banned in France for nearly two decades for its purported anti-French depictions. Set during World War I, the unctuous General Broulard slyly persuades General Mireau, a self-serving egotist, to order his troops to attack the impregnable “Ant Hill”. Colonel Dax, under Mireau’s express orders, leads the attack which is doomed to be a failure. The vengeful Mireau, with Broulard at his side, orders the selection, court-martial and subsequently death sentence of three for their cowardice. The morally righteous Dax (Kirk Douglas), deeply disturbed by this, decides to defend the three men in the hastily assembled “kangaroo court”. However, neither impassioned logic nor eloquent pleas, nor even a last-ditch attempt at an under-handed means, manage to work. Brilliantly shot in stark black-and-whites, and comprising of marvelous performances by the actors, the movie managed to be a powerful indictment against the callousness of the powers that be and the utter futility of war.

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Genre: Drama/War Drama
Language: English
Country: US


Sam Juliano said...

Yes, Shubhajit, PATHS OF GLORY is 'bleak, austere and minimalist,' but it's a powerful anti-war film and a prime example of how it's director was so diverse in genre. As you meticulously note in this brilliantly-penned review, this film represents a wedding of magnificently-rendered components.

Jon said...

I agree with Sam that this film is powerful. Multiple viewings attest to its allure for me. Great stuff Shubhajit on one of Kubrick's best films. How about that tracking shot in the trench!!!!!!

Samuel Wilson said...

Kirk Douglas was definitely a generous producer to give so many actors opportunities to steal the film from him. Among them, Adolphe Menjou deserves a lot of credit just for participating. He was possibly the most rabid right-winger among Hollywood actors, but he didn't let that stop him from making the most of his role in a presumably left-wing film. It's a crowning achievement for one of the era's greatest character actors.

Shubhajit said...

@Sam Juliano:

Thanks a lot Sam. Indeed, Kubrick's movies have covered such a staggeringly diverse range of genres. Even when they've covered similar genres, they've still been so different from one another tonally. Its really a matter of great sadness that he didn't make more movies in his lifetime.

Shubhajit said...


Thanks Jon. Yeah, that tracking shot was something! Apparently, Kubrick deliberately had the trenches made wider than they were during WWI, in order to be able to have those legendary tracking shots.

Shubhajit said...

@Samuel Wilson:

Couldn't agree more with you on that. Kirk Douglas did play a huge role in ensuring that Kubrick got to make this movie. The way he used smart tactics to ensure United Artistes allows the movie to be made, makes for a really interesting read. Didn't know that Adolphe Menjou was a rabid right-winger, but he did provide a memorable turn in the movie. Thanks Samuel.