Mr. Taste: Couldn't agree with you more. Not only is it one of Kubrick's best, it is also one of the best war films I have seen (and I have seen a lot of them). Further, it is one of Kirk Douglas' best performances. I haven’t had time to really put thought to all of the parallels this movie may have with the theme of the Sopranos, but I’m sure that there are many ways that its inclusion in this episode can and will have significance.
Allow me to summarize the major plot lines of the movie and then give some initial thoughts on why it may be significant. Others can read this and chime in as well.
Summary of the Movie:
On the surface it is the story of French soldiers who are ordered, by glory seeking superior officers, to leave the trenches in a suicidal attack on a well fortified enemy position which has little significance, other than it is currently occupied by the Germans. The attack is to be led by Captain Dax (Kirk Douglas). After the attack begins, many of the soldiers can only advance a few yards before the murderous German machine guns and artillery force them back into their trenches without even getting close to the objective. Many find it impossible to even get out of the trenches in the first place because of the German fire.
Upon seeing the failure of his attack the hypocritical French commanding General, aided by unfeeling bureaucrats who consider the ordinary trench soldiers to be nothing more than animals, choose three innocent men (by random lottery) to face a court martial for cowardice.
Captain Dax, who first tried heroically to lead the doomed attack, volunteers to defend the three chosen men at their court martial. He is given little time to prepare, procedural safeguards for the men at trial are non-existent, and the guilty verdict is pre-determined despite Dax’s passionate dissection of the lunacy of the charge of cowardice against these men. They are eventually executed by firing squad as a sacrifice to the vanity of the General staff and to absolve these smug officers of any responsibility for their own fatal blunder in ordering the impossible attack in the first place.
The final scene of the movie takes place in a café. The French soldiers, having just witnessed the execution of their 3 comrades (and knowing full well that but for the luck of the lottery it could have been them facing the firing squad) are drinking and carrying on boisterously. The owner of the café brings forces a pretty young captured German girl to sing for the drunken troops on stage. At first they jeer and taunt her, seeing her only as an object for their own amusement. They fall silent however as tears roll down her cheeks during the song. They recognize that she is being humiliated for their pleasure; she is being forced to lose her own humanity against her will, a feeling they now understand all too well, being themselves just the playthings of their egomaniacal military superiors.
The scene that Uncle Junior was watching occurred near the end of the movie, after the execution. In that scene the duplicitous senior General once again displays the cynicism of the “officer class” when he registers surprise over Captain Dax’s genuine desire to save the men; the General couldn’t fathom that Dax was not making a grandstand play for higher command and denounces him as a dreamer.
Tony, like Captain Dax, leads his men in an enterprise that ultimately must fail; the life of organized crime has only 2 real possible endings: death or jail. And, like Captain Dax, he also seeks to protect them from either of these pre-determined fates, despite the futility of the attempt. Tony may be a “dreamer” about his ability to save his men just as Dax was.
The difference between the “officer class” and the trench soldiers in the movie is a clear example of ‘stratification”, similar to that found in an O.C family.
Eugene Pontecorvo, is a good soldier who did his duty when asked. Despite this, Eugene’s dream of retiring is sacrificed for Tony’s vanity in keeping “appearances” up. Ultimately Eugene must give his life as the price of that vanity (just like the 3 soldiers executed by the firing squad).
The title of the film is actually ironic and inappropriate since war is not a 'path of glory'. As suggested by Thomas Gray's poem Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard: “The paths of glory lead but to the grave.”
The themes of this movie (futility, arrogance, stratification, sacrifice and forced dehumanization for vainglorious leaders) will undoubtedly be significant in future episodes as this season develops. Keep an eye out for parallels between the two.
</p>Edited by: <A HREF=http://p098.ezboard.com/bthechaselounge.showUserPublicProfile?gid=billymac72261>billymac72261</A> at: 3/17/06 8:53 pm