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Paths Of Glory (1957) * Top Pick *

 War smelly
War is smelly stinky stink-work

Genre: War Drama

Starring: Kirk Douglas (Ace in the HoleHolocaust 2000), George Macready

Directed By: Stanley Kubrick (The Killing2001: A Space Odyssey)

Overview: A colonel is given an impossible mission. In his failure to carry it out, his men are tried as cowards.

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die: when it comes through for me, it shines. Soon after I got the book, I realized that it was full of spoilers, every single one of the 1001 entries included plot synopses. So I stopped reading it and just started trusting it. Paths of Glory came to me via garage sale. I didn't know it was Kubrick, I didn't know it was about soldiers on trial, and I didn't know it was such a perfectly told tale.

Let's look at the cinematography first. Visually, we have a wonderfully juxtaposed atmosphere presented to us - the grand regalia of the palatial rooms (like the one below) where generals make the decisions to murder their own, whether it be sending battalions onward in battle against impossible odds or for making an example of those who could not bring themselves to step in death's trench. By constrast, things noble and human happen in the cramped and filthy mire that is the enlisted's front line.

Then there's the story itself. A simple and straightforward premise - the order to take a hill, the failed assault, a trial for those who failed - allows for character development to shine in every veiled loss and bittersweet victory these people endure. I've always thought that the best writing is the kind that frames the story with personality, rather than explanations. Kubrick shows us what needs to be seen and crowns those who put these events into motion with rich and unique perspective, and with its 87 minutes, it's delivered in a succinct yet poignant way.

cowardly
...forging a path of glory down his leg...

Performance: 9 Cinematography: 9 Script: 9 Plot: 9 Mood: 9

Overall Rating: 90% (Glorious)
Aftertaste:

I must be a rare exception, not having never heard of this before. Of all the things that says about me as a critic, I'd like to think that it still puts me in the 'I'm not yet tainted into blaséehooded snobbery quite yet' category.

What I learned most from this film is how going into a film completely blind can make a film experience far better. Knowing every detail about a man's career ahead of time - in this case Kubrick's - can serve to diminish one's enjoyment in surprises. I learned long ago that spoilers, even sometimes trailers, can give just a little too much away...

Paths of Glory also reinforces my theory that Great War films are all exceptionally good. They've never let me down yet.

Pretty good for a Looney spent at a garage sale huh?

That's $1.02933 USD for you Americans our there. Ouch what is happening to your money guys?

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I'm gradually getting through my Kubrick - and thanks to Turner Classic Movies, most of it has come along with the cost of my basic cable package! Recently saw Lolita and this - and both films are fantastic. Must make a list of what's left: I think there's just Full Metal Jacket and Barry Lyndon - and gotta keep my eye on the TCM schedule.

Totally agree the run-time on this film is perfect, and (SPOILERS) the fact that it doesn't follow a traditional Hollywood story arc really makes this one worthwhile.

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