Tuesday, June 7, 2016

#2 Paths of Glory vs. #11 The Lost Battalion


EFFECTS, SOUNDS, MUSIC:  “Paths of Glory” is not an effects driven movie. It only has the one combat scene, but it is outstanding.  It probably has the best bombardment sounds and effects of any WWI movie. The movie is sparse on music, but what it has is effective.  It was one of the first war movies to use snare drums as the dominant music.  The drum roll at the execution stands out.  GRADE  -  A

“The Lost Battalion” is a made-for-TV movie so you can’t expect outstanding effects.  It tries hard to reach the new generation of movie watchers.  The sound effects are loud and brash.  You hear bayonets going in to human flesh.  The machine gun noises are among the best.  The other effects are of the exploding trampoline style.  Explosions hurl stunt men into the air.  The flame throwers are the most memorable image from the film.  The sounds and special effects are really fiery.  There is also a horrific friendly fire bombardment that includes one of the most awesome effects I have seen in a war movie.  A shell literally blows Lt. Gaedeke up.  The film has little music.  Surprisingly, the music is not used to rev up the action.  GRADE  -  B

FIRST QUARTER SCORE:  Paths of Glory  -  9    Lost Battalion  -  8

INTERIORS AND EXTERIORS:  “Paths of Glory” makes a point of contrasting the exteriors of the generals to those of the soldiers and the same for the interiors.  The trench is well-constructed, if a bit too wide (probably for the famous tracking shot).  It has the best no man’s land of any WWI movie.  The craters and the barbed wire are strewn, as they should be.  Throw in the rubble of a house. There is even a crashed plane.  This is contrasted with the immaculate grounds of the chateau.  The inside is “splendid, superb” as Gen. Broulard marvels.  The movie was partly responsible for the public’s image of “chateau generals”.  Meanwhile, Dax stays in a Spartan bunker that looks authentic.  GRADE  -  A+

The trench in “Lost Battalion” looks like it was constructed for a made-for-TV movie.  It is too pristine.  No man’s land looks artificial.  It is small scale.  Most of the movie takes place in a forest.  Whittlesey’s bunker is generic, but the command bunker has some style to it.  GRADE  -  C

HALFTIME SCORE:  Paths of Glory  -  19    Lost Battalion  -  14

CINEMATOGRAPHY:  “Paths of Glory” is the crown jewel in Georg Krause’s long career as a cinematographer.  It is an outstanding effort.  The movie is a clinic on cinematography.  You have the famous tracking shots of Dax moving along the trench between the soldiers and then leading them through no man’s land.  The camera follows him through the chaos.  Later, the camera follows Broulard as he walks through waltzing guests at his chateau.  The court-martial features off-center shots and deep focus.  GRADE  -  A+

Jonathan Freeman is an award-winning television cinematographer.  He was obviously influenced by  “Saving Private Ryan” for the frenetic battle scenes.  The movie is very much in the new style of war movie visuals.  Lots of quick cuts, some hand held shots, some slo-mo, some shifting perspectives.  There is even an homage to “Paths of Glory” as Whittlesey reenacts the walk through the trench pre-battle.  GRADE  -  B-

THIRD QUARTER SCORE:  Paths of Glory  -  29    Lost Battalion  -  21

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT:  “Paths of Glory” has an outstanding cast of characters and all the main ones are indelibly portrayed.  Two in particular deserve mention:  Mireau and Saint-Auban.  At first, Mireau appears to care for his men, but when a promotion is dangled in front of him, he sells them out.  Later, he threatens to open artillery fire on these same men.  His arc from ambitious to pure villainous is notable.  Maj. Saint-Auban is a forgotten figure, but he is the classic lackey kissing Mireau’s butt.  Every main character is a distinct person.   This is crucial for the condemned men.   GRADE  -  A+

“The Lost Battalion” tries hard to distinguish the main characters. The character development is a bit simplistic.  Whittlesey is the New York lawyer who grows into leadership.  He has a stoical veteran as his second-in-command.  Gen. Alexander is the stereotyped bullheaded brass.  The doughboys are stock characters, but they are distinct (if you watch the movie more than once).  Some of their deaths are tugging.  GRADE  -  C

FINAL SCORE:  Paths  -  39
                           Battalion  -  27

MATCH ANALYSIS:  The inevitable blow-out.  These categories left “The Lost Battalion” at a severe disadvantage.  Three of them were production-oriented and “Paths” was a major production.  Those same categories were influenced a lot by the directors involved.  “Paths” was directed by possibly the greatest war movie director of all time.  Stanley Kubrick was a master and Russell Mulcahy did several music videos for Elton John.  “Nuf said.  “The Lost Battalion” is the best WWI movie made in the last twenty years, but in this case, older was better.  Still, making the final four was quite an accomplishment for a made-for-TV movie.

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