Sep 16, 2022·edited Sep 16, 2022Liked by Casey Muratori, Anna Rettberg

For the editing, I think the fade-in and fade-out between scenes was a convention at the time and I don't think Kubrick was as deliberate with editing as he was later in his career. So the transitions are ok I guess but the timing does not feel extremely good. On my copy of the film at 26:33 and 55:58 the fade out starts too early. There's also the same kind of problem with sound. At 21:19 he does a quick cut-in on the face of the dead soldier but then the cymbal sound cuts a little late and has a weird fade out. There's probably technical reasons for that but also I'm not sure Kubrick really knew at that time what to do with that kind of smooth transitions between minor scenes. The hard-cut to the party felt extremely deliberate though, he interrupts the dialogue and cuts to the smiling assistant.

For the story, I agree it's not a great legal drama, as you said it lacks context. It's not a long movie though so the worldbuilding is not as expansive as Lawrence of Arabia. On the other hand, on a visual and auditory level, it's very condensed and very shocking I think. Like the firing squad, I'm not an art historian but I don't know of any painting depicting the shooting of a unconscious soldier. The point of view (from the shooters) is also unconventional and extremely striking. I'm pretty sure Kubrick intended to make something more intense and uglier than Goya and Manet.

For the sound, I agree that the sound effects are dated, but I would argue that the sound design choices are extraordinary. I talked a little bit of the Ant Hill attack in the previous comment, but there's also the firing squad scene that is like 7 minutes of the ugliest drum I've ever heard. This felt completely unique to me. For the Ant Hill scene, it's how constant the noise is as well as the layering of low frequencies and high frequencies, all that combined gives a feeling of relentlessness. So the sound effects are not good and not realistic, but I think the overall design of the soundscape of that scene is amazing.

I want to say I thoroughly enjoyed the podcast, you talked about aspects I didn't notice about legal drama and historical context. So I liked the film a lot but I can totally see where you saw shortcomings as well.

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Sep 16, 2022·edited Sep 16, 2022

I'll share my first impressions right away and listen to the podcast later today. I watched the film for the first time yesterday and I was completely stunned. I haven't watched all early Kubricks and I am kind of indifferent to The Killing and Lolita, but Paths of Glory is something completely different in my opinion. I was shocked by the five minutes of the Ant Hill attack, it's like one of the most violent war scene I know of. The sound design of the whole movie is incredible, but especially in this scene Kubrick just bombards the viewer with a kind of abstract soundscape. And I don't know exactly how to describe the filming, but the way he shoots from afar and moves the camera slowly makes for a kind of detached, abstract view point. It's like watching the movie equivalent to Guernica. To me it's much much more potent than Saving Private Ryan or 1917.

One other really strong moment for me is the hard cut between the discussion about the firing squad and the high society party. The tracking shot filming french people dancing to a german waltz is incredible, it's like Kubrick displaying all his contempt for the characters.

The ending also surprised me a lot. We talked about chanting in movies and I think here it's an example where it works. The soldiers are treating the german woman like a sex object until she starts singing. At that point they regress into childhood, viewing the woman as a mother singing to them. I think it's a bold way to finish a war film, it's more about trauma and human nature than courage or sacrifice, which would be the more cliché way to end a war movie.

On a narrative point of view, I think Kubrick was still searching and the connection between scenes is not great all the time, but the sound design, the cinematography and the overall theme are so good that it makes it one of the great war movies in my opinion.

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deletedSep 16, 2022·edited Sep 16, 2022Liked by Anna Rettberg
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I like this analysis. I can't say I really got that from watching the movie myself, but it's a very nice unifying theme to the whole thing that I would be interested to think about in a re-watch...

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