Via Instapundit: There’s a picture that will always be good, years from now, the great Kirk Douglas told Roger Ebert back in 1969. “I don’t have to wait fifty years to know that; I know it now.” The film he was referring to was Stanley Kubrick’s touching First World War drama Paths of Glory, in which the master tells the story of a group of French soldiers court-martialed for cowardice during the trench war with the Germans, and their moral commander who decides to defend them in court. Paths of Glory came out in 1957, was released exactly on Christmas, and managed to cover the cost of its production, but not achieve any significant financial gain. This comes to no surprise given the themes it chose to explore and the obstacles it faced in its initial run. The film’s obvious anti-military subtext was met with criticism and even censorship: the French government pressured United Artists not to release it in France, it was withdrawn from the Berlin Film Festival in Germany’s attempt not to irritate France, thanks to Francisco Franco’s government Paths of Glory was shown in Spain as late as in 1986, American bases in Europe refused to show it for a long time, and even the Swiss thought it was too provocative, keeping it censored until 1970. Today, Paths of Glory is considered one of Kubrick’s legitimate masterpieces, demonstrating the technique and style which Kubrick would show in his later works, a brave, poignant work of art set in the trenches, where mood and blood tend to obscure the humanity and reason. Led by Kirk Douglas, without whom the film probably wouldn’t have even seen the light of day, Paths of Glory is Kubrick’s first crucial step on his very own path to glory, a thoughtful, intelligent piece of filmmaking that illuminates the absurdity of war and the tragedy of the human condition. Having directed the critically praised The Killing in 1956, Kubrick was looking for a project to follow it up, deciding to work on The Burning Secret, a film based on Stefan Zweig’s short story. After Dore Schary, the head of production at MGM, left the studio, Kubrick gave up on the project and remembered Humphrey Cobb’s ‘Paths of Glory’ he had admired since his early days. He acquired the rights to this fictional account inspired by the events that had really happened in France in 1915 for mere ten thousand dollars from Cobb’s widow, most likely surprised at his interest in a book that had been out-of-print for a long time. Douglas, the owner of Bryna Productions, was intrigued and used his influence to get the film’s production started. Even though he thought no money could be possibly made from a film like this, he also felt such a film needed to be made. United Artists agreed and Kubrick was given the green light. Paths of Glory was shot in Bavaria, at the Geiselgasteig Studios and Schleissheim Palace near Munich.
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