There are a few things that I am thankful about with regards of Paths of Glory:
1) I am so glad we covered lens and camera movement this week in Film Analysis.
2) I quite probably have a crush on Kirk Douglas. There, I said it.
3) Criterion Collection! Behold, something I will own very soon!
In the French trenches of World War One, the 701st regiment is ordered by General Mireau (Macready) on a suicidal mission to take the Anthill, in the German territory. While Colonel Dax (Douglas) disagrees with this course of action, he relents. While Dax is able to get most of the soldiers into battle, a third stay in the trenches. Mireau orders them to be shelled, and this attack is only barely prevented. Eventually, no land is taken and the soldiers retreat.
Mireau, outraged by this show of “cowardice” wants a general court martial. Three soldiers are picked, one from each company: Private Ferol (Carey), Corporal Paris (Meeker), and Private Arnaud (Turkel). The film shifts from the front to a court sequence, with Dax defending his men before the council. With testimony that it was a lost cause and evidence that Mireau was doing this to further his own career, it all comes to naught: the honor of the French army must be upheld. The men are sentenced to be executed by the next morning.
Kubrick proves himself a master camera movement. The sweeping shots of the battlefield and moving through the trenches are marvelous. He uses lenses and camera angles and with just one shot, characters situations and relationships are quickly understood. So many great things to appreciate with this movie, I tell ya.