Leave it to the Kafka of filmmakers to submit this stunning image as an anti-war icon: a man in a gurney, unconscious and near death, propped up to be assassinated by firing squad. Do the French have no mercy? In "Paths of Glory," Kubrick's 1957 investigation of the folly of WWI, the filmmaker succeeds in communicating the severe issues involved with commanding combat. Basically, the idealist/pessimist Kubrick decides that the aristocratic generals are Machiavellian with only their own reputations in mind.
There's a brilliant court martial scene in which Kubrick zeroes in on the men’s faces in a way right out of "Clockwork Orange." The "trial" takes place in this magnificent chateau whose gleaming white and black tiles made me think of Dylan's line about the “geometry of innocent flesh on the bone.” Bascially, an officious general sends his men on an impossible mission only to enhance his credentials. I won't say more, but let's just say all that stands between evil and justice is Kirk Douglas' chin. That guy has a great demeanor and a fantastically flinty voice that still conveys integrity. Also, with his cleft chin and slick hair and small stature, he embodies the French soldier he’s supposed to portray.
The evil general intones, “There’s nothing like watching someone die to inspire a soldier to do his duty.” Trust Kubrick for this over-the-top language that uses absurdity to communicate a very sober point.
War is hell. So thought most of the audience, who seemed very stirred up. Mr. Right and I saw the film at the National Arts Club. The screening was thrown by the film committee, the head of which took a mike after the screening and asked people their thoughts. She saw parallels with "our current situation." She's a pacifist who's against war for any reason. Others didn't agree and when things turned heated, she backed out, "I don't want to get into this." But she already had.
I admire people who get stirred up by movies.
Le film, c'est moi.