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Paths of Glory
Crime, Drama, War
IMDB rating:
Stanley Kubrick
Kirk Douglas as Col. Dax
Ralph Meeker as Cpl. Philippe Paris
Adolphe Menjou as Gen. George Broulard
George Macready as Gen. Paul Mireau
Wayne Morris as Lt. Roget / Singing man
Richard Anderson as Maj. Saint-Auban
Joe Turkel as Pvt. Pierre Arnaud (as Joseph Turkel)
Christiane Kubrick as German singer (as Susanne Christian)
Jerry Hausner as Proprietor of cafe
Peter Capell as Narrator of opening sequence / Judge (colonel) of court-martial
Emile Meyer as Father Dupree
Bert Freed as Sgt. Boulanger
Kem Dibbs as Pvt. Lejeune
Timothy Carey as Pvt. Maurice Ferol
Storyline: The futility and irony of the war in the trenches in WWI is shown as a unit commander in the French army must deal with the mutiny of his men and a glory-seeking general after part of his force falls back under fire in an impossible attack.
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Along with King & Country, the best anti-war movie ever made
Kirk Douglas is far and away the best actor never to win an Academy Award for Best Actor. Consider his work in this film, Lust For Life and The List of Adrian Messenger as 3 great examples. And, there were other performances nearly as great, as his work in Detective Story.

The straitjacketed thinking and actions of the military mind(and the gov't) was never shown better than in Paths of Glory except perhaps for All Quiet On The Western Front. There is no question that this thinking is why we go to war instead of using all other alternatives to the very last degree in order to avoid it. Also, if the old men who declare wars and send young men into battle to die also had to fight those wars on the front lines, there wouldn't be another war, ever.

In POG, the hideous part where the sick and dying soldier was shown being executed instead of being allowed to die a soon-forthcoming natural death was the best example of the cast-in-concrete military mind I have ever seen. And, so true, as I was in the Army and saw things such as this firsthand.

If you like this film, also see The Young Lions for a similar message and a great Marlon Brando performance.
A remarkable anti-war film that retains its impact decades after its release.
The film is beautifully performed, staged, photographed, cut and scored. In 1916 in the French trenches, three soldiers are court-martialled for cowardice by officers who want to use their case to instil discipline into the ranks.

Paths Of Glory is an incisive melodrama chiefly depicting the corruption and incompetence of the high command; the plight of the soldiers is less interesting. The trench scenes are unforgettably vivid, and the rest is shot in genuine castles, with resultant difficulties of lighting and recording; the overall result is an overpowering piece of cinema.
The best movie that I previously never heard of!!
I watch about 100 movies per year, but I NEVER heard of "Paths of Glory" until I recently saw it on a list of great movies.

It is the BEST movie that I have never heard of and one of the best movies I have ever seen!! I'm stunned that I knew nothing about it.

As an anti-war movie, "Paths of Glory" rivals "All Quiet on the Western Front" and "Dr. Strangelove." It has one great scene after another. Most of the scenes consist of two- or three-person conversations that include very smart dialogue, sharp character portrayals, and conflicts that induce viewers to root for some people and root against others.

During the movie, I became depressed when something bad happened to the good guys and happy when something bad happened to the bad guys. I can't think of too many movies that were written so well that I reacted this way.

I know many people, including myself, don't like military movies with so much action that you can't follow who has been killed and who is winning. This movie wisely has only about 10 minutes of (World War I) battlefield scenes and the result is crystal-clear.

Instead of scenes of mass killings, the writers and director Stanley Kubrick focus on the confrontations between high-level and low-level officers, an unfair court martial, and a farcical trial. The results of the action convey vividly how military leaders care more about themselves than the heroes who fight for their nation.

The movie also wisely has one central character played by Kirk Douglas. He is outstanding as a very principled and strong mid-level officer who essentially represents the perspective of viewers like ourselves. Like Douglas, we want to express moral outrage as the plot unfolds.

I almost gave this movie a 10, but I thought the ending was too sudden. I wanted it to continue. I'm also on the fence about whether I preferred this movie to either be about English soldiers or French soldiers with French accents or left as is with French soldiers who are clearly not French.

I swear I'm not normally a cheerleader for movies. In fact, I think I gave a movie that came out at about the same time a 1. The fact that Gigi won a Best Movie Oscar and "Paths of Glory" received zero nominations is a stain on Academy Award voters.

I gave "Paths" a 9.

Less an anti-war movie than an anti-World-War-One movie--but it sure works for me
For me, the most compelling thing about this film is that is is based on actual occurrences: French troops did refuse to attack at one point during this most insane and pointless of wars. The movie certainly makes no attempt to be objective--and why on earth should it? From the perspective of the 21st century, it is hard to imagine a more immoral and outrageous event than World War One--in which an entire generation of several nations was led to slaughter for no detectable reason, except the pique of a group of so-called Great Nations whose era was deservedly coming to an end. Though I cannot comment authoritatively on how realistic the war scenes or the military protocol is--nor, I suspect, can anyone else living in this day--I found the battle scenes devastating, the dialogue often riveting, and the final scene extremely affecting. It would be best to see this film on a big screen, but it's worth seeing however you can. Kubrick might not have attained full mastery of his craft when he made this one, but he was still head and shoulders above most of his contemporaries. I have a slight preference for Grand Illusion as a film about the insanity of war, but this runs it a respectably close second.
Glory to M. Kubrick for this masterpiece
Stanley Kubrick is releasing a film denouncing an injustice during the First World War, two French generals send their troops in a suicide mission to take a point to the Germans, faced with the impossibility of advancing before the enemy bullets, French soldiers don't advance. This film shows the devotion of a simple colonel, Colonel Dax interpreted by Mister Kirk Douglas himself, trying to defend French soldiers who listened to their instincts of survival against French seniors officers thinking only of their careers, Kubrick shows the human (and maybe the French, who knows?) stupidity to want to make examples where those who should be killed are those who send their troops to die without any mercy and not those who are sent as cows to the slaughterhouse. The film is animated by special effects of time, but neither the latter nor the black and white are disturbing, on the contrary, it brings authenticity to this masterpiece of Stanley Kubrick who deserves his 10/10! Glory to M. Kubrick for this masterpiece!
A Brilliant Indictment of the Military Institution
Before indulging in the ponderousness that could mar his otherwise exceptional later films, Stanley Kubrick directed this terse, no-nonsense account of a group of men tried for mutiny during the horrific trench warfare of World War I.

"Paths of Glory" exists mainly as a scathing indictment of the bureaucracy behind the world's wars. The accused men in this film are scapegoats for commanders who failed at their own duties, but in the military, as in the world outside the military, the power resides with a few, and the masses have little power against them.

Kirk Douglas delivers a fierce performance as an officer who sees the injustice and refuses to tolerate it. There's a throbbing human passion in the way he attacks the character, as there is throughout the entire film, somewhat rare for Kubrick, whose later movies would tend toward the emotionally detached.

A surprisingly candid film for its time, "Paths of Glory" would be tough medicine for people to swallow today, when everyone wants to believe that the military establishment has nothing but our best interests at heart. The film suggests that soldiers have as much to fear from their allies within as they do their enemies without.

Grade: A+
The paths of glory lead but to the grave
"All Stanley's life he said, 'Never, ever go near power. Don't become friends with anyone who has real power.'" - Christiane Kubrick

"Paths of Glory" begins with the playing of the French nation anthem - an ironic touch - and then quickly introduces us to its key players: Colonel Dax, a well intentioned military man, and General's Broulard and Mireau, two elderly careerists who treat the soldier's under their command with callous indifference.

As the film progresses, director Stanley Kubrick will use two recurring visual motifs - men in trenches and men affixed like mere pawns to a chessboard - to hammer his dour view. The film's soldiers are always trapped, not only constrained by duty, class and national responsibility, but by physical, political and cosmic forces. When they try to rise above or beyond the filth, they're promptly shot down.

Dax, the film's hero, is himself ultimately impotent. All his protests mean nothing. Whether he leads his men to success or failure, they still lose. The end of the film has Dax standing helplessly on the sidelines, watching as his men are executed for failing to take an insignificant Ant Hill. This is WW1 in microcosm, aristocrats, monarchs and burgeoning "democracies" risking lower class limbs for land and hoping desperately to cling onto whatever power is available come the 20th century's new order.

Even as far back as "Paths of Glory", Kubrick's form reflects content. Plot and character coalesce into a very concrete, very formal image of the world. In "Killer's Kiss" and "The Killing" this was strictly a generic world, but "Paths of Glory" launches itself in a different field, that of history, warfare and army politics.

The film's subject is unambiguously visualised in its main setting: a huge château converted to an army command post. Because the decor becomes the story, Kubrick's actual story is not simply told, but barely told. Given a narrative context that is so simple, characters are also defined in very basic ways. The pawns live in the mud, the kings in the ornate château. The kings scapegoat and shift responsibility, the drones take the blame and bullets. Everything else becomes a manifestations of decor or camera movement. Characters are imprisoned, parodied, paired off and squared away. The prime examples are the generals, Broulard and Mireau, lookalikes in uniform, two ruthless men who toy with each another and who lead each other on in the guise of concern for their troops. Luis Bunuel, himself fond of satirising the ruling elite, would adore the film.

Whilst discussing taking the Ant Hill, a series of brief tracks follow our players as they pace marble floors. Each character pursues a different path, but they all arrive at the same end. Broulard proves to spin the more effective web because he is the more clear-sightedly cynical. Mireau in the end becomes a zealot of self-deception. Dax is the liberal-humanitarian shuttlecock passing between them, he has no double but is himself "doubled", negotiating his superiors' ambitions first as a commander on the battlefield then as a lawyer in the courtroom.

Dax, as officer and battlefield soldier, is also a hero of two worlds, the château and the trenches. As "hero", his function is to serve as the meeting point of two perspectives: the objective vista of history and the subjective confusion and terror of trench warfare. Significantly, Dax is Kubrick's only conventional hero outside of "Spartacus" (also starring Douglas). Kubrick's later films would abandon conventional protagonist/antagonist dualities.

Camera movements are clear but subtle. When Mireau inspects the troops in an early scene, Kubrick's camera tracks backwards before him, down an interminable trench. When Dax later tours the trench, the same objective track is inter-cut with one from his point of view as he passes through the ranks. Kubrick's point is clear. Dax sees outward and is aware of, or empathises with, the men around him. Mireau sees inward, fixated on himself and his own goals. Later, he will fire upon his own ants.

This interplay reaches its zenith with the execution of three soldiers. Here the anguished perspectives of the victims, one of whom is played by the always brilliant Timothy Carey, are inter-cut with a tracking shot which itself seems to shift in intensities as it passes in front of a hierarchy of observers: from the indifferent troops to the press corps to Dax and the guilty corporals. Kubrick's extended tracking shots have usually been put down to the influence of Ophuls (to whose death Kubrick dedicates one scene in "Paths of Glory" to), but the articulation of point of view through tracking - an emotional montage - is closer to Hitchcock.

This form of emotional dialectics is present throughout the film. Watch how the generals play number games, tabulating the statistics of probable causalities before battle, bargaining over how many "examples" should be shot, whilst the men below them cry in the trenches and prison houses, vividly aware of their own fickle lives.

Unlike Kubrick's later works, "Glory" is resolutely unambiguous. His dialogue is caustic, blunt and his images likewise, impeccably composed, with stark lines and fluid but muscular tracking shots. Elsewhere, the film is almost robotic, marching towards its climax like a relentless machine. "Glory" was also the first feature to utilise an all percussion sound-track, a fact which lends Kubrick's imagery an even greater sense of foreboding.

10/10 – Masterpiece.
One of the best (anti) war films ever made!
Stanely Kubrick's Paths of Glory is a great example of when Kubrick was at his best- and only in his twenties. This depiction of World War one with Kubrick as director and Kirk Douglas in perfect form, it takes the viewer into the objectivity of it all. What happens in the trenches, if just from a bird's eye view? His gliding camera in these scenes is remarkable. Then when he moves into the courtroom scenes, and the following awaiting of the soldier's last call, it becomes heartbreaking, and it becomes one of those rare stories that never loses its relevance. And the last scene shows that Kubrick, contrary to his de-humanizing nature in his films, reaches an emotional peak equal to De Sica or even Dreyer. It gets better every year. A classic of anti-war sentiment.
Paths of Glory
It is wonderfully acted, shot, paced and absolutely absorbing from the first frame to the last, making Paths of Glory the best movie to take place in the horrifying trenches of WWI. Kubrick's direction is phenomenal as in Douglas who gives one of his best performances. This was his (Kubrick) first masterpiece and it would only get better with each passing scene.
A Miniature of the Real Battle
The film effectively depicts, in miniature, a historical reality—General Nivelle's spring offensive to regain the Chemin des Dames position in April, 1917. The real offensive involved 19 divisions, and not just one regiment, as in the movie. Forty thousand men were lost on the first day, with almost nothing to show for it.

Such a vast undertaking can be dealt with only in non-fiction works such as Barbara Tuchman's GUNS OF AUGUST, which marvelously depicts on a vast canvas, involving the movements of whole armies, the opening of the war in 1914, the events which led up to "the Miracle of the Marne." The irony here is that by stopping the Germans at the Marne, the French doomed themselves to four years of slaughter, eventually losing 1,400,000 young men killed.

Art cannot deal with such scope, but must miniaturize; thus the offensive in PATHS OF GLORY is confined to one regiment, and then focuses on just five men in that regiment—its colonel (Douglas), a cowardly company commander (Wayne Morse), and three privates who are randomly selected as scapegoats. Of course, the selection is not really random; the Ralph Meeker character, for example, is selected by Morse because he had witnessed the latter's cowardice, which cost the life of one of his men on a scouting expedition.

In addition, two generals—perfectly played by a self-righteous George Macready ("If those sweethearts won't face German bullets, they'll face French ones") and a cynical Adolphe Menjou (who is surprised to learn that Dax is an idealist)—are also individualized as the "bad guys." The point is often made that the bad guys are too bad. Of course they are. In a movie, more so than in a novel, you have to paint in broad strokes. The essence of film is melodrama.

The Macready character is loosely based on the real Nivelle, who was appointed commander-in-chief after the ten-month-long battle of Verdun, in which the French lost half a million men. Nivelle, more mistaken than evil, felt that what was needed was a major gung-ho offensive by artillery and infantry. But the Germans, forewarned, had taken the high ground (called the "Ant Hill" in the movie), along the Chemin des Dames, and had prepared impregnable positions. In WWI, unlike WWII, the defense almost always won.

The movie, based on Humphrey Cobb's novel, perfectly illustrates art's practice of miniaturization, individuation, and humanization of large historical events. As viewers, we need to see specific persons we can relate to. The Vietnam movie PLATOON, carries this idea still further, in that a platoon is only part of a company, which is part of a regiment. A WWII movie which does the same thing is A WALK IN THE SUN.

For me, PATHS OF GLORY remains a classic, and is not just an antiwar film—though it is that too.
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