FILM OF THE WEEK: Paths of Glory
Saturday September 6, ITV4, 4:10pm
Last month marked 100 years since Britain entered the First World War, to this day still oxymoronically dubbed the Great War. Of course, there was nothing great about it at all. Not only did 10 million soldiers and seven million civilians lose their lives, but the aftermath laid the foundations for the rise of National Socialism in Germany and even more unimaginable horror to come. So while it is right to commemorate the many who lost their lives on the battlefields of Europe, it is inexplicable that the utter folly of the leaders who sent them there has been all but ignored.
Those in charge of the centenary events would be well advised to watch Paths of Glory, the first of three anti-war films that Stanley Kubrick would make during his career. Doing so would take them not just to the heart of the trenches and over the top with several of Kubrick’s masterly visual techniques, but also to the opulent palaces well behind the frontline, where military commanders practiced a murderous blend of hypocrisy and deceit.
It is this that Kirk Douglas’s French colonel has to contend with, as well as German guns and artillery, in defending three low-ranking soldiers from charges of cowardice, after all were sent on what was tantamount to a suicide mission by a promotion-chasing general. Amazingly for a major studio picture of the 1950s, nobody comes away with any glory, and Douglas sums up the affair (and, indeed, the entire war) when he proclaims: “There are times that I’m ashamed to be a member of the human race, and this is one such occasion.” The final scene, featuring the film’s one moment of compassion, only underscores the dreadful lack of humanity that precedes it.
SET THE RECORDER FOR:
The Ides of March
Saturday September 6, BBC Two, 9:15pm
News emerged this week that George Clooney is to adapt Hack Attack, Guardian journalist Nick Davies’ account of the phone hacking scandal that rocked the British media and political establishment, for the big screen. It will be the third time Clooney tackles the corruption of democracy, having already done so in the excellent Good Night, And Good Luck and The Ides of March. The latter sees an idealistic young campaign manager (Ryan Gosling) discover that the Obama-esque presidential candidate he works for (Clooney) isn’t quite the paragon of virtue his supporters believe him to be. A fantastic ensemble cast that includes Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti ratchets up the tension to the very final scene.
Monday (night) September 8, Channel 4, 12am
In less than two weeks, Scots take to the polls to decide the outcome of a historic referendum on independence. It’ll be far from the first time voters have been asked to put their cross next to a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ box, however. In 1988, the Chilean public did exactly the same to answer the question of whether dictator Augusto Pinochet should stay in power for another eight years. No is set in the weeks leading up to the vote, following the story of an advertising creative (Gael García Bernal) drafted in to spice up what had become a dour campaign against Pinochet. Director Pablo Larraín adds authenticity to proceedings by shooting in low definition video, blending actual news coverage from the time seamlessly with his own footage.
Thursday September 11, ITV4, 11:40pm
John Carpenter’s masterpiece of paranoia, with a blood-curling twist of body horror, The Thing remains the finest terrestrial-based work of science fiction ever made. Kurt Russell leads an all-male science research team (the film doesn’t even qualify for the Bechdel test) that stumbles across an other-worldly life form in the desolate environs of the Antarctic. Set mostly in the claustrophobic rooms and corridors of the research station, Carpenter subverts the standard creature feature by having the alien hide (in plain sight) in the men’s living, breathing bodies. Underwhelming at the box office on its release in 1982, The Thing has rightly gone on to gain status as a cult classic.
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