falderal : a moving images blog
Paths of Glory ; 1957  ·  Posted by Tallulah

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Actors: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready, Wayne Morris, Richard Anderson, Joe Turkel
Country: U.S.A.

My friend and I have been planning a Kubrick marathon for some time but something always came up and we would not watch a Kubrick film or we wouldn’t get to it. We decided that The Shining would be our first film but due to technical difficulties, the only choice we had was Paths of Glory. We both groaned since we both dislike war movies and I felt pooped about having to stare at Kirk Douglas’ face. I have nothing against him but whenever I see his face, I just want to punch him, just like Jason Schwartzman. Just like how I didn’t want to punch Schwartzman when I actually met him, my urge to punch the computer screen whenever Douglas showed up lessened and lessened. He was wonderful as Colonel Dax.

In many ways, I don’t think that Paths of Glory is special but at the same time, there are many exceptional things about it. For the most part, the film looks like a normal A/B feature film but then you start seeing things that are distinctly Kubrick, specifically cinematic aspects that you see later on in his films. I, and many others, associate Kubrick with tracking shots, and I have often associated Max Ophüls with tracking shots as well. For me, when I watched Paths of Glory, the tracking shots did not have the grand feel that Ophüls’ tracking shots had. Or maybe they both achieved the same effect in that Ophüls used those tracking shots to give his films a glossy feel whereas Kubrick used tracking shots to achieve various effects. For example, in the famous tracking shot of when Colonel Dax walks in the trenches, the viewer isn’t marveling at the lovely movement of the camera but instead, one notices the grim look on everyone’s faces. Each face may be different but they don’t really have an identity — instead, they collectively give off the impression of people being in the dumps. War isn’t glamourous and fighting it isn’t all flags and glory — instead, it is a cause for unhappiness.

This picture (on the right) also made me aware that Kubrick was stepping out of the norm in regards to normal Hollywood style camera angles. It was moments like this when I became aware that this film was made my Kubrick, versus let’s say… Edmund Goulding (no offense to Goulding, of course). The impression I got was that the director was going for something new and the odd angle had an almost Brechtian effect on me. Sure, it made me focus on the character and made it look like I was looking down on him, just like what the judges and prosecutor were doing, but at the same time, all I could think was “WHY DID HE USE THIS ANGLE?” It bugged me loads.

All in all, I thought it was a good movie but it definitely made me feel pooped, as usual. I wonder how I’ll fare with Full Metal Jacket.

IMDb Link: Paths of Glory

Leave a Reply