24 May 2008
Just watched Stanley Kurbick's "Paths of Glory" starring Kirk Douglas (1957). I've seen it at least twice before but this time I didn't just really like it, I loved it. The camera work is fantastic. The tracking shots through the trenches create some of the most vivid scenes you'll ever see. These cramped shots contrast wonderfully with the spacious indoor scenes featuring high ranking offices. The battle scene and the evening recon scene are exceptional. "Paths of Glory" is one of the better arguments you'll ever see for the beauty of black & white movies. This would be a completely different and less effective film in color.
The story is powerful and the performances by an excellent cast are also noteworthy but "Paths" really has Kubrick's stamp on it. He was more restrained than in later films when he seemed to think too much of himself. The over indulgence worked in "A Clockwork Orange" but not at all in "Full Metal Jacket" or “Eyes Wide Shut." I also think "Spartacus" -- another earlier film -- is a great movie but it seems less like a Kubrick, probably because he took over the project from Anthony Mann (at Douglas' insistence).
(For the record I thought Kubrick’s work on "The Shining" was good, but not great.)
"Paths of Glory" is one of a zillion powerful anti-war films. I reckon there are so many good anti-war movies because wars make for such compelling drama and making war look bad is not exactly a challenge. Even war films that aren't mean to be anti often serve the purpose quite well.
Mostly I think "Paths of Glory" is expert film making and I'm glad I watched it again. It just gets better with each viewing. The sign of a classic.