Wednesday, June 1, 2016

ALL QUIET (1930) (1) vs. OH! WHAT A LOVELY WAR (9)


REALISM:  Erich Remarque, who wrote All Quiet on the Western Front, was a veteran of WWI.  The movie recreates the realism of the book.  This starts with the opening scene that reflects the enthusiasm of the German people for the war.  The training camp scenes give a taste of Prussian discipline.  At the front, director Milestone did a remarkable job with the trenches, dugouts, and no man’s land.  The film includes references to the rats, the lice, shell shock.  The battles are as realistic as one could expect with the technology available.  Paul’s trip home shows the cluelessness of the public to the facts at the front.  GRADE  -  A

“Oh! What a Lovely War” is not meant to be literally realistic.  In fact, much of it is surreal.  One scene has the cavalry as a merry go round.  The Brighton West Pier represents the home front.  Perhaps surprisingly, the front is earthy and unsentimental.  It throws in little touches like early gas masks and canaries to warn of gas attacks.  The most realistic aspect of the film is the depiction of the leaders.  They are damned by their own words and attitudes.  GRADE  -  C+

FIRST QUARTER SCORE:  All Quiet  -  9    Lovely War  -  7

DIALOGUE:  “All Quiet” is not a dialogue driven movie.  It has few famous quotes, but the soldier banter is natural.  There are two scenes where dialogue is strong -  when the soldiers discuss the war and when Paul returns to his old classroom and describes the war to the new potential cannon-fodder.  GRADE  -  B

“Lovely War” uses a lot of primary source material so the words coming out of the mouths of the kings and generals are real.  The rest of the dialogue is fine and not flowery.  If you count the numerous period songs, then the dialogue is outstanding.  The songs are an integral part of the story and are not just background or filler.  GRADE  -  A

HALFTIME SCORE:  All Quiet  -  17    Lovely War  -  16

SOLDIER BEHAVIOR:  “All Quiet” is one of the best movies in delineating German soldier life in WWI.   You can learn a lot about soldier life in WWI from this movie.  The movie is especially strong in its depiction of soldier camaraderie.  The bonds are forged in the furnace of the trenches.  The film throws in numerous details of the hardships the soldiers endured.  It hits many of the “lacks”:  food, female companionship,  sleep, hygiene   GRADE  -  A

“Lovely War” is not really focused on depicting soldier life.  The vibe is apt.  The arc takes the men from patriotic enthusiasm to jaded cynicism.  The black humor is relevant.  The very British behavior may be a little clicheish, but there was a certain stiff upper lip quality to the British soldiers of the Great War.  GRADE  -  B

THIRD QUARTER SCORE:  All Quiet  -  26    Lovely War  -  24

ENTERTAINMENT:  “All Quiet” is a faithful presentation of the most famous war novel.  The movie was a box office success and garnered the Best Picture award.  The plot is a near perfect imagining of the effect the war could have on a group of young men who volunteer with no real knowledge of war and end up tasting the fruits and ashes of that war.  It was smashing entertainment for the 1930s, but is a bit outdated today.  This is mainly attributable to the archaic silent movie style acting of much of the cast.  All things considered, it holds up remarkably well and can be viewed numerous times if you are a war movie fan.  GRADE  -  A

“Lovely War” is a unique take on the war.  It is probably the most female-friendly of the movies in the tournament.  The songs are numerous and very entertaining.  Unfortunately, you have to be historically literate to really enjoy the movie.  It is something of a niche film.  Since most people are only vaguely familiar with the history of the war, it is not entertainment for the masses.  It is more educational than entertainment.  GRADE  -  B

FINAL SCORE:  All Quiet  -  35
                           Lovely War  -  32

MATCH ANALYSIS:  This was an intriguing match-up between movies with contrasting styles.  “All Quiet” is justifiably considered to be a masterpiece, but “Lovely War” deserves to be considered one of the best WWI movies.  Certainly, “All Quiet” should have advanced in a tournament to determine the best WWI combat film.  It is the quintessential movie of its type.  “Lovely War” is a square peg in a round hole. As a musical set in the war, it is without peer.  My suggestion is to pair the movies up to get the full WWI experience.  Watch “All Quiet” for the foot soldier perspective and watch “Lovely War” to see how they got into that mess.


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