In my humble opinion, it’s no secret that American movies are becoming as stale as a bag of corn chips left open for 6 months straight. American cinema has unfortunately become swollen with remakes, sequels, reboots, re-imaginings, re-tellings, and re-whatever else you can think of that are as exciting as a tall glass of flat coke. It’s disturbingly sad that we are being thoroughly and soundly outflanked by the increasingly entertaining ranks of foreign films; the shocking number of American flicks that originated overseas is staggering (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, pretty much every Asian horror film ever made, etc). Hollywood is apparently more concerned with quantity as opposed to quality; they pump out more PG-13 schlock than nickelodeon in an attempt to put butts into seats and fill their Hollywood coffers. So to make a long story short (too late), I’ve primarily concerned myself with foreign fare of late. I’ve always had a preference for old films and foreign films anyway, because in my opinion, they were more focused on storytelling, plot, and serious acting chops. Modern American films are slowly bulldozing me over the cinematic edge. Case in point; I recently watched a film called Mesrine: Killer Instinct, a 2008 film about notorious French gangster Jacques Mesrine. Mesrine was one mean mother, and Vincent Cassel played the part of vicious lunatic with delicious style and machismo. Mesrine was legendarily bold, as he made short work of banks (robbing one bank, and then crossing the street to rob another immediately after), eluded the authorities for years, escaped from prison multiple times, and claimed around 40 murders. Part two, Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 was made the same year, and chronicled his later exploits. The films were visually vivid and gritty, with a fearless flair that made the onscreen action that much more grimy and realistic. Mesrine only grew more bloodthirsty and criminally ambitious as the years passed, and director and actor alike were masterfully on point. Veer away from the blandness and predictability of current cinema and immerse yourself head first in some fresh foreign fare.
Stanley Kubrick, a legendary filmmaker of great renown, has been at the helm of some of cinema’s most well-known and iconic pictures; who can forget Lolita (1962), Spartacus (1960), Dr. Strangelove (1964), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971), The Shining (1980), and Full Metal Jacket (1987)? His resume reads like a greatest hits list, the multitude of his work being critically acclaimed and pioneering in their own right. Quite possibly my all-time favorite Kubrick flick, though, is the utter masterwork that is Paths of Glory. Set in WWI, the film’s focus involves the trial of three men accused of cowardice in the face of the enemy after a failed assault on the enemy German positions. Kirk Douglas, a personal favorite, plays the role of French Colonel Dax, a visceral portrayal of a man tasked with defending the accused soldiers, who all face death by firing squad. His character faces the daunting task of proving the unwavering character of his men, while facing the impossible brutality that was WWI.
The film itself is wrought with a tension befitting the backdrop of one of the world’s most brutal conflicts, with themes of honor, duty, nationalistic pride, greed, betrayal, family, and idealism laced tightly within. The stark realism on display in the raw and gritty set pieces and the intricately placed details add to the brilliant performances of the actors. The grand scale of the set captured the sheer scope and intensity of the conflict, and the dramatic, solemn tension vividly captured the perilous plight of the condemned men. An outstanding achievement in film from a director and cast known for their remarkable performances.
Check it out!