Sunday, 24 January 2010
IS PARIS BURNING? - 1966
This movie is set in August 1944.
The Allies are advancing with one main aim and that is to reach the Rhine and the liberation of Paris is not amongst the priorities.
Adolph Hitler, on the other hand, wants Paris to be totally destroyed.
The French Resistance are divided. The Communists want to start a resistance campaign to save the city while the Guallists are passive and want the Allies to liberate Paris. Ultimately, the Communists act first by taking over the Police Prefecture and start taking out the Germans and the Guallists have no choice but to join forces.
The Germans have their hands full and a truce is called which allows the Germans to plant their demolition charges in the Louvre and Eiffel Tower and other places of interest.
Okay, so the Germans never blew up Paris so no suspense there. But the same arguement could be made about 'The Longest Day' or any of the true war films - we all know what happened.
It's all about 'the how'.
The only 'big' star in this movie is Paris itself.
The action takes place in the real places and, as it is filmed in Black and White, enables use of film of the real events that tie in with the action.
Another point is that the French play the French, the Germans played by Germans and Americans by Americans. And Orson Welles as the Swedish Ambassador - though there is one point, when donning a black hat, the camera angle takes the viewer back to 'The Third Man' - my only complaint but a nice touch all the same.
And a star studded cast that includes Jean-Paul Belmondo, Yves Montand, Leslie Caron, Charles Boyer, Simone Signoret and Alain Delon. Most of the Germans like Hans Messner and Wolfgang Priess have turned up in German uniform in one film or another and, therefore, familiar faces. Gert Frobe gets promoted from Private in 'The Longest Day' to the General in charge of the demolition of Paris.
The Americans include Kirk Douglas as Patton, Robert Stack as Seibert and Glen Ford as Omar Bradley. Along for the ride in cameos are Skip Ward, Anthony Perkins and George Chakiris - though blink and you'll miss him but he's listed in the 'stars'.
Together Gore Vidal and Francis Ford Coppola have put together a pretty good script and Maurice Jarre's soundtrack ties it all together.
As a nice touch an aerial shot of Paris turns from black and white to colour.
And the final scenes where all you hear is Hitler screaming out 'IS PARIS BURNING?'
The thing that struck me was that we are all used to seeing the jubilant crowds surrounding tanks during the liberation - but not the tragedy for the Germans were still resisting.
The film comes in two halves. First the story of the French resistance. Then the original Intermission. Part two concentrates on the liberation by the Allies and the German 'resistance'.
A film that shouldn't be missed.