Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Paths of Glory

Marriage by Any Other Name

Paths of Glory by Stanley Kubrick, 1957:

Paths of Glory is the last work in the phase "early Kubrick" (Spartacus and Lolita are transitional works from the early to middle periods) and coming back to it after several years one acknowledges the opening scene in the château wouldn't be better in Lubitsch — curtains open upon history available for billeting, or something like it (and that "something like it" alone says something, never mind "billeting") — "I admire your taste. [...]" "I really haven't done very much — the place is much the same as it was when I moved in!" / Kubrick's satirical (but is that even the word?) turns of dialogue, even this "early," stab: "a fighting general" / "something pregnable" — rifles and trust, care for the penetrating weapon, carve the canal, direct link from Paths of Glory to Full Metal Jacket / "Yes it's a terrible price to pay, but we will have the Anthill!" / Try to patrol enemy lines, the moonlight is all-pervasive (cf. Private Pyle in Full Metal Jacket — the ambiguous [d]evolution of the Starchild) / It's a different planet / Dead soldiers appear on the earth like the ghosts they are when flares cross the sky overhead / The beautiful discrete scene re: fear of pain v. fear of dying — no helmets on soldiers' asses / The "theater" of war / The tension between theater and documentary / I think there's no question that during the charge Kubrick understood he'd require a new way to convey this moment at a level equally cinematographic and moral in its validity, as galvanizing as the comparable stretch in Four Sons / And this too would have to be for the history of cinema / To convey war you must do something worthy of 'the history of cinema,' must rise to meet 'the history of cinema' / The formal (staging, framing, tracking) and the documentary / It's not verisimilitude he's after / A Bronx Irish Jewish priest / In moments, at this point in Kubrick's oeuvre, there are still vestiges of Elia Kazan — that is to say, Kubrick hijacks Elia Kazan-isms, Kazan's theatricalisms / And at the end: "And as my wife always says, what is life without a little diversion?" / And these were the very men Dax defended / And the shellshocked man the general has transferred out of the regiment is the one who will live / Kubrick's precision: the men moving past with bandaged gashes like any "extra" as General Mireau (George Macready) peers through the binoculars and says it won't be long now before they take the Anthill / "Extras" / "Taking," innuendo / Everything is "immaterial" in the face of protocol / Just as a saloon can double as a courthouse in Judge Priest, in Paths of Glory a palace can turn a court martial into a space for Greek theater, draw a line back to arguments in ("no stenographic record") ancient tribunal — filigree and ornamentation is a throwback, not to its once contemporary form (man's monumental folly across two centuries) but to that once contemporary form's adoption of what, seen from our/my vantage amounts to pastiche of 'antiquity' / Folly of all men across centuries / "That's really deep — that really is deep" — Joseph Turkel (Lloyd the bartender in SK's supreme masterpiece The Shining) at the priest's arrival takes the tone of Zooey Glass / When news holds great objective bearing for a superior officer the messenger is still putting himself in, has been molded into assuming, a complaisant-submissive position / The first film where the officers at a ball waltz with 'women of a certain age' / Dax is not invited because it's "a dress affair" (Douglas and Menjou in essentially the same dress — except Menjou's in slacks and the other isn't) / One can gauge Dax a moral champion but it's not as if he commits suicide after the executions — he walks through a door / This man with a wedding band, after hearing Christiane's song of 'release', might just as well be entering a brothel / Broulard/Menjou: "These executions will be a perfect tonic for the entire division. — There are few things more fundamentally encouraging and stimulating than seeing someone else die." / The depositions are a dead trail — they decompose as a force of agency, and all but dissolve as a viable plot mechanism, with Broulard's declaration that he must get back to the party lest he be "rude to the guests" / Or, rather, the consequences are outside of the consequences / "I'm sorry." — not even a capitulation, po-faced: rather, 'I'm sorry it has to be that I do not capitulate and this system makes it so the endurance of my own hide depends on my non-repentance or at least the stifling of my regret' / There is no correlation between Ophuls and Kubrick, that stupid old truism, except that from point A to B there develops a single idea; in Ophuls one witnesses it flower in real time but a Kubrick film demands Memory, same as in Flowers of Shanghai / Between one building and another, with trenches and the mutilated strewn in between, an uneasy peace is born / And what of that

Paths of Glory by Stanley Kubrick, 1957:


1 comment:

  1. At the risk of sounding obsequious or somethin' Craig, this could be the best critical writing on Kubrick ever. I feel like I haven't seen the film yet...

    Good move to put the Ophuls comparisons out to pasture; and now, if I want to connect dots I might see Flowers in relation to this as well as the (to me obvious) evocation of The Godfather.. -Sam


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