Stanley Kubrick – Paths of Glory (1957)

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In Stanley Kubrick’s “Paths of Glory” war is viewed in terms of power. This mesmerizing, urgent film about a true episode in World War I combines the idea that class differences are more important than national differences with the cannon-fodder theory of war, the theory that soldiers are merely pawns in the hands of generals who play at war is if it were a game of chess. The result of this amazing film has been the emergence of one of the great talents in contemporary cinema, the master whose greatest work was yet to come. Continue reading

Larisa Shepitko – Voskhozhdeniye AKA The Ascent (1977)

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A Soviet masterpiece

In the Belarus of 1942, two Soviet soldiers are captured by Nazi-friendly Belarusians. In captivity, the attitude of the two men toward their fate differs greatly. One of the soldiers manages to find an inner strength and spirituality, incomprehensible to the other man. Larisa Shepitko’s last film is one of the most beautiful war films in cinema history. Continue reading

Tim Blake Nelson – The Grey Zone (2001)

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At once brutally realistic and highly theatrical, Tim Blake Nelson’s screen version of his play “The Grey Zone” may well evoke the mechanized horror in the bowels of the Nazi death camps more vividly than any fictional film to date.

But its staccato, Mamet-style dialogue exchanges, breathless pacing and remarkably healthy, well-fed-looking actors create a cumulative sense of artificiality that seriously undercuts the devastating effect clearly being sought in this fictionalized dramatization of the only organized uprising ever attempted by the prisoners at Auschwitz.

Laudably avoiding cheap sentimentality and phony heroics in its aggressive investigation of an all-but-impossible moral quandary, this is a relentless, hard-edged, tough-minded picture that, even with supportive reviews, faces an uphill commercial struggle upon planned release by Lions Gate next spring. Continue reading

Zaza Urushadze – Mandariinid AKA Tangerines (2013)

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Plot
Autumn in the 1990s. An Estonian village in Abkhazia. Forest-covered hills, the sea, tangerine orchards. The Abkhazian War in Georgia. Two villagers – an old man Ivo and his neighbour Markus – are the only ones who haven’t left. Markus wants to harvest his tangerine plantation, although Ivo is against cropping during wartime. As the war approaches and the conflict takes place before their very eyes, Ivo finds a survior on the battlefield – a wounded Caucasian man Akhmed. Despite the danger Ivo takes him to his place. When Markus, while burying the perished Georgians, also finds a survivor. The tangerin harvesters now must resolve their own war, happening under their roof with enemies from both sides. Continue reading

Sergei M. Eisenstein – Aleksandr Nevskiy [+Extras] (1938)

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From Criterion Collection:

Eisenstein drew on history, Russian folk narratives, and the techniques of Walt Disney to create this broadly painted epic of Russian resilience. This story of Teutonic knights vanquished by Prince Alexander Nevsky’s tactical brilliance resonated deeply with a Soviet Union concerned with the rise of Nazi Germany. Widely imitated—most notably by Laurence Olivier’s Battle of Agincourt re-creation for Henry V —the Battle on the Ice scene remains one of the most famous audio-visual experiments in film history, perfectly blending action with the rousing score of Sergei Prokofiev. Continue reading