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Over the Top and into the Wire: WWI on Film

Friday, August 22, 2014
7:00 p.m. Paths of Glory
Stanley Kubrick (U.S., 1957)

Kubrick’s brave antiwar film remains one of the most cool-headed assaults on cold-blooded murder ever filmed. A Korean War–era audience could take little comfort in the fact that these scenes of ritualized slaughter were set during World War I. The story, based on a true incident in the French army in 1916, traces the court-martial and execution of three soldiers chosen as scapegoats for the failure of a suicidal French infantry attack against superior German forces. Suave, uncaring Adolph Menjou and pathologically paranoid George Macready are the generals who shield themselves from blame; Kirk Douglas is the white knight who challenges their scheme. Paths of Glory is comparable in its beauty and pathos to classic World War I antiwar films like All Quiet on the Western Front. But in its concentration on lunacy in the high command, and in its brittle cynicism, it is pure Kubrick.

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Kubrick, Calder Willingham, Jim Thompson, based on the novel by Humphrey Cobb. Photographed by George Krause. With Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready. (87 mins, B&W, DCP, From Park Circus)