Paths of Glory

Paths of Glory

DVD - 1999
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Based on a true story which occurred in the French Army in 1916. When a regiment fails in its attempt to attack a German position, three men stand trial for cowardice.
Publisher: Santa Monica, CA : MGM Home Entertainment, c1999.
ISBN: 9780792841401
0792841409
Branch Call Number: FIC Paths 6998mv 1
Characteristics: 1 videodisc (87 min.) : sd., b&w ; 4 3/4 in.

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p
plotline
Apr 08, 2017

Brutal Irony In The Trenches

"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel," - Samuel Johnson, 1775

Here, Kubrick establishes an important thematic component that is present in many of his great films. The idea of entrenched authority answerable only to itself and running amok with cruel insensitivity would seem like the fearful concerns of a paranoiac except that Kubrick is informed by reality.

The film is named after and based on Humphrey Cobb's 1935 novel which was based on actual events, making Kubrick's depiction of the sadistic generals unassailable. Their ill-advised forays into the battlefield are horrifying. When their folly turns into unimaginable tragedy we enter the realm of the demented.
Willing to maintain their status and power at a terrible human cost the depraved military leaders persecute brave men who are guilty only of following orders. From a moral stance, the viewer is poised to watch hopefully as one man steps forward to begin the search for truth and the fight for justice.

Maintaining status and power despite the human toll; Kubrick gives this subject a thorough and unflinching examination in PATHS OF GLORY and it would be a topic he would scrutinize more than once with fierce intensity. In SPARTACUS (1960) the cruelty of Roman might seeks to strangle human freedom. In DR. STRANGELOVE (1964), a deranged general (again the military) strives for purity of essence by driving mankind to the brink of doom. And perhaps most chillingly, in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968), a nearly "human", all- controlling computer, evolves into a homicidal entity determined to preserve the integrity of a space mission by eliminating "human error".

The validity and impact of PATHS OF GLORY is underscored by its twenty year ban by the French government. The film is a seamless melding of technique (the dolly shots of Kirk Douglas in the trenches are remarkable for their power), storytelling (the script is highly charged but not hysterical), and beautifully nuanced performances (McCready and Menjou are utterly dynamic; Douglas gives his outrage a perfectly modulated naturalism).
Kubrick's emotional passion is unalloyed by his intellectual cool in this film. And that fact makes PATHS OF GLORY my favorite of all the director's work.
Recommended: Lewis Milestone's ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1930).
4/11/16

j
jimg2000
Mar 21, 2017

Agree with all those fine write ups by other fans of Thompson, Kirk Douglas and Stanley Kubrick. A fine movie that depicts the ruthlessness in the sacrifice of life in battles drawn up by those far behind the front line commanders (generals and politicians.) Plenty of biting quotes in IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050825/trivia?tab=qt&ref_=tt_trv_qu

a
AGuyInAHat
Apr 10, 2016

Stanley Kubrick was a master of his craft, there is no denying that, but that doesn’t prevent him from making one or two films that don’t measure up with the genius of his later work. Now I know that Paths of Glory was still pretty early in Kubrick’s career, but it wouldn’t be until after his many frustrations during the production of Spartacus that he’d gain more control over his films, and thus giving us some of his best work. Many have also fawned for decades over this film, giving it this untouchable aura that only a fool would dare to stain with criticism.
Now if you’ll permit me to step off my soapbox, I’ll give myself the chance to say that, while not by any means a perfect flick, Paths of Glory is still a cut above the rest when it comes to films with distinct anti-war messages.
Kirk Douglas (who would go on to star in Spartacus and vow to never work with Kubrick again) stars as Colonel Dax. Dax is assigned a suicide mission by General Mireau (a fiendishly over-the-top George Macready) to storm a German outpost called the Anthill. After failing to occupy the Anthill, Mireau accuses Dax’s forces of cowardice, and order a court-martial on three random soldiers in an act of decimation.
I was surprised to see that a film that I had previously thought was strictly a war film was more a courtroom drama than anything else. Only half of the film is dedicated to actual warfare, while the second half is the drama centered on the court-martial, with Colonel Dax acting as Atticus Finch.
Whatever war scenes the film does have are expertly crafted and wrought with tension, it’s nowhere near as visceral as the opening to Saving Private Ryan, but is extremely effective all the same. The performances are also all very well done (save, perhaps, for just one, but we’ll get to that later). Kirk Douglas back in his heyday was a fucking powerhouse. Every second he’s on screen you can see just how much passion and energy he puts into his every movement. It’s a damn shame he never worked with Kubrick again.
Now my biggest problem with the film is its message. Not to say that I’m pro-war or anything, but the way the message is conveyed felt a little too on the nose for me to really take seriously. To see the problem, you should look no further than George Macready’s performance as General Mireau. His performance, along with the script, portrays Mireau as a smug, conniving prick with no regard for the lives of his soldiers and only concerns himself with maintaining his reputation and saving face. He’s almost cartoonish in how evil he his and that detracts from the realistic qualities of the story. The morals are simply layered too thick, and because of that, the film didn’t grab me the same way Kubrick’s films should grab me. I know a lack of subtlety is a fairly common criticism concerning films from this era, but it really gets under my skin how often these messages are handled so tediously.
In 1987, twenty years after Paths of Glory, Kubrick would direct his second critically acclaimed war drama, Full Metal Jacket, and while you could argue that that film has the same ham-fisted message that Paths of Glory had, I would argue that the film benefits from a much tighter script and less idealized performances, thus making it a superior film in my opinion.

n
Nursebob
Feb 26, 2016

From two pompously bedecked generals buttering croissants while callously discussing how many men will die the following day to a cowardly booze-soaked lieutenant saving his own reputation at the sake of another man’s life this is perhaps Stanley Kubrick’s most scathing damnation of war’s many inanities. Lacking both the nihilistic cheekiness of "Doctor Strangelove" and the vulgar sarcasm of "Full Metal Jacket", Kubrick’s straightforward approach involved transforming a farmer’s field into a pitted smoking vision of Hell with apocalyptic explosions raining dirt upon the frightened faces of men huddled in foxholes and trenches while their superiors exchange pleasantries in a richly appointed chateau turned headquarters. Unrelentingly angry and far too bitter for mere satire it’s little wonder that France and its allies banned the film for years in order to save face. Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker and Adolphe Menjou round out a sterling cast and Kubrick’s flair for tracking shots and intrusive lighting adds a touch of the surreal.

fipper Sep 03, 2015

A definite must see for cinephiles. You will see why Kubrick and Douglas are known as greats.

a
akirakato
Jun 09, 2015

This is a 1957 American anti-war film directed by Stanley Kubrick, based on the novel of the same name by Humphrey Cobb.
During World War I, the French soldiers refuse to continue a suicidal attack.
Three soldiers are picked up for a court-martial.
Colonel Dax, the commanding officer of those soldiers, attempts to defend them against a charge of cowardice in the court-martial.
It shows that some generals are undeniably and profoundly selfish.

v
VRMurphy
Apr 22, 2015

This will sound contradictory, but this is a good film with some dreadful acting performances. Kubrick shows early brilliance in detail - the lighting, photography, all the set ups. The history is reasonably accurate, given that it's presented as fiction based on a true story. Some of the main players, particularly Adolph Menjou, are terrific. Some of the others, however, are very one-dimensional and give the impression of being asked unexpectely to improvise. Kirk Douglas is ... Kirk Douglas. Well worth watching to round out your Kubrick experience, otherwise maybe not so much.

c
Chaos1214
Dec 15, 2014

"You know what Thomas Paine said about patriotism... It's the last refuge of a scoundrel." :|

aaa5756 Jul 12, 2014

One of the best films I have seen in this year. It was entertaining and interesting. Great performances a must see for all. Truly a really great movie worth the long library wait or the price to rent from a Red Box. Well worth the price of admission to any theater.

a
AQUILEA777
Jul 01, 2014

Corrupt egotism in military command, where others' lives count for little in the quest for victory and promotion. French Army, 1916, but fits all wars. Tight, rapid script -- strong performances. Swift, compelling pace, unlike later Kubricks. Gritty, convincing B&W scenes of trenches and surge across No Man's Land. One of the very best films of its type.

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aaa5756 Jul 12, 2014

“One person can make a difference and every person should try.” –John F Kennedy

aaa5756 Jul 12, 2014

“Those who would trade liberty for security deserve neither.”-Ben Franklin

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Monolith
Feb 16, 2014

Title taken from Thomas Gray's 'Elegy written in a country churchyard': "The paths of glory lead but to the grave".

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