36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A city on the edge of destruction
If the tagline for It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World was `Everyone whose ever been funny is in it,' then Rene Clement's epic could almost lay claim that `Anyone who's ever been French is in it,' assembling Alain Delon, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Charles Boyer, Leslie Caron, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Yves Montand, Simone Signoret, Michel Piccoli, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Claude Rich and...
Published on 8 July 2007 by Trevor Willsmer
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Conscientious but arthritic
Rene Clement's exhaustive and exhausting account of the liberation of Paris is one of those all-star pseudo-documentary epics of WW2 which came into fashion in the wake of "The Longest Day". On paper it should have worked - script by Gore Vidal and Francis Ford Coppola - but it gets bogged down in excessive detail, and a kind of propagandist mindset which drains the...
Published on 8 Jan 2010 by Peter Scott-presland
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A city on the edge of destruction,
This review is from: Is Paris Burning ? [DVD] (1966) (DVD)If the tagline for It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World was `Everyone whose ever been funny is in it,' then Rene Clement's epic could almost lay claim that `Anyone who's ever been French is in it,' assembling Alain Delon, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Charles Boyer, Leslie Caron, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Yves Montand, Simone Signoret, Michel Piccoli, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Claude Rich and others (Paul Crauchet, Bernard Fresson, Michel Lonsdale, Patrick Dewaere and Albert Remy can also be spotted if you look hard enough) in a spectacular retelling of the Liberation of Paris. While the French producers intended a great patriotic celebration of the deliverance of the capitol under the threat of total destruction after Hitler ordered nothing be left of the city but ruins, Paramount, who picked up the bulk of the tab, saw it as another Longest Day and padded out the American roles with largely blink-and-you'll-miss-`em cameos by Kirk Douglas, Glenn Ford, Anthony Perkins and Robert Stack. Of the non-French top-liners it's only Orson Welles as the Swedish consul Nordling, frantically trying to avoid unnecessary bloodshed through negotiation, and Gert Frobe as General Von Choltitz, the general tasked with defending or destroying the city, who play a major role in the film. Their scenes easily the best in the somewhat disjointed picture, never lapsing into simple stereotyping and giving a credible face to history.
To be fair, most of the heavyweight French cast are not much more than slightly larger cameos, with the bulk of the film falling on lesser-billed Bruno Cremer and Peter Vaneck's shoulders, although both characters do bring to light the fact that somewhere along the way the film got somewhat depoliticised from Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre's superb book - both Colonel Rol-Tanguy and Major Gallois/Cocteau were key figures in the communist resistance, though you'd never know it from the film. Although the involvement of communists in the Liberation of the city is briefly acknowledged and the De Gaullist figures often identified as such, the left don't fare so well: ironic considering one of the strengths of the book was in showing the political infighting and jockeying for position between the De Gaullists and the communist resistance, with the armed rising a consequence of each side ignoring the Allies' strategy so that they could claim they led the Liberation in an escalating game of oneupmanship. Collaboration barely gets a mention either: this is predominantly triumphalist in tone, and as such its often very effective, with several sections carrying a real surge of jubilation as the people take their city back. (However, the involvement of black troops and resistance fighters on the French side is very briefly acknowledged.)
Although primarily credited to Gore Vidal and Francis Ford Coppola, the script was the result of several writers - alongside Marcel Moussy and Beate von Molo, Jean Aurenche, Pierre Bost and Claude Brulé also contributed - and there are a few somewhat jarring shifts in style as a result. Despite the political dilution that one suspects was a consequence of getting both the essential co-operation from de Gaulle's government and the equally essential dollars from Paramount, it does a good job of making the constantly shifting strategies and increasingly chaotic events accessible while keeping the momentum up, but as with most spot-the-star WW2 epics, it's the vignettes that stick most firmly in the mind: a German soldier, his uniform still smouldering, staggering away from a blown-up truck only to be ignored by a businessman blithely going to work as if nothing were happening; a female resistance worker delivering instructions for the uprising being offered a lift by an unsuspecting German officer after her bike gets a puncture; French soldiers picking off Germans from an apartment whole the little old lady who lives there excitedly watches while drinking her tea; Jean-Paul Belmondo and Marie Versini crawling across a road with their bikes to avoid snipers while a gay man walking his dog watches, before going on to liberate the seat of government without a shot being fired because the civil servants there habitually do what they're told by anyone in authority; an armoured unit getting a dozen different directions to their destination by Parisians; SS men casually looking through Von Choltitz's papers out of force of habit; and the general suddenly finding himself alone in a restaurant as the bells of Paris ring out for the first time in four years to proclaim the Allies' arrival.
The Americans don't fare as well, all-too obviously being there simply for marquee value (the prominently billed George Chakhiris is in it for less than 30 seconds!), although Anthony Perkins' soldier acting more like a tourist is at least memorable, while most of the German regulars - Gunther Meisner, Karl-Otto Alberty, Wolfgang Preiss, Hannes Messemer - are pretty much stuck in their usual bad/good German roles from every other war movie they ever made (that said, it's a surprise Anton Diffring didn't get an invite as well!). In many ways the two real stars of the film are the city of Paris and Maurice Jarre's excellent score, the film's only real constant factors as the stars come and go and events move forward. For the most part the film avoids the tourist shots with a great use of locations, giving a sense of a place where people actually live and die, while Jarre's score manages to counterpoint a militant piano-led theme for the Nazi Occupation with an increasingly stirring resistance theme that constantly runs underneath it, gradually working its way out of hiding and constantly gaining ascendancy before finally flowering into a vivid and triumphant waltz for the Liberation.
A somewhat ill-fated production - producer Paul Graetz died of a heart attack during filming - it was a huge but much-criticized success in France but a conspicuous box-office failure everywhere else, with Paramount swearing off the epic genre for decades to come and Rene Clement's career never really recovering: his last major film, he wouldn't work again for another three years and only made four more films. Best remembered today for Plein Soleil/Purple Noon, Clement was a logical choice for the film, having had earlier had much success with previous WW2 films La Bataille du Rail, about the French resistance on the railway network, and the Oscar-winning Jeux Interdit/Forbidden Games, and his direction is for the most part superb, be it the control of a chillingly formal tracking shot along a railway platform casually revealing and passing a dead body or the edgy hand-held work during some of the makeshift street fights. Although the decision to film in black and white which would hurt the film so much at the box-office and on television was reputedly forced on the film by the French government's refusal to allow the film to fly red and black Nazi flags over the city (grey and black, however, were permitted), it works to the film's advantage, not only allowing it to incorporate genuine archive footage a little more skilfully than is the norm but also gives it a more verite feel thanks to Marcel Grignon's naturalistic photography. If at times this feels less like the classic it could have been and more like the best film that could be made under the political and financial circumstances, it's still an impressive and occasionally compelling recreation of a unique moment in history that deserves to be at least a little better known and better regarded than it is.
Unfortunately Paramount's DVD is a bit ill-starred itself. Although several behind the scenes documentaries and trailers exist, the fact that the DVD is extras-free is less problematic than the soundtrack. If you choose the English soundtrack, you have some highly variable dubbing of most of the French and German cast (although Frobe is well-dubbed here by Michael Collins, his `voice' from Goldfinger), but if you opt for the French soundtrack - which is included on the US DVD but not the UK one - you have the equally variable dubbing of the German and American actors (though Georges Aminel does a strikingly good job of dubbing Welles on the French version). Just to add to the confusion, Hitler's dialogue is all in subtitled German, although in all the other scenes the Germans all speak English! Switching between the languages is a solution of sorts, but an irritating one. Still, at least the DVD preserves the widescreen format and the overture and intermission.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating...,
This review is from: Is Paris Burning ? [DVD] (1966) (DVD)This film, directed by Rene Clement, isn't exactly the French patting themselves on the back at the liberation of Paris after four long years of occupation. As the sequence which shows the betrayal of young resistance fighters to the Gestapo makes clear, there were as many French willing to throw in their lot with the occupiers as there were those willing to resist.
But the film gives a good portrait of a city coming back to life after four dead years in a variety of tableux...the raising of the Tricoleur above the Prefecture of Police...the lights coming back on at the Quai d'Orsay...and (my favourite!), the ringing of the cobweb-encrusted Emmanuel Bell at Notre Dame, heralding the end of Paris's era of darkness - a darkness of a kind that we in Britain never knew.
All accompanied by Maurice Jarre's brilliant musical score, with that so haunting, waltz-like theme...
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is Paris burning,
This review is from: Is Paris Burning ? [DVD] (1966) (DVD)Gives you a very good insight on how the French coped and then dealt with the nazis of germany, very brave men and women they had in the resistance. But also makes you realise that not all Germans were on hitlers side.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An old chestnut but still good viewing,
This review is from: Is Paris Burning ? [DVD] (1966) (DVD)I'd seen it repeated on TV years back and have read the book. Not brilliantly-accurate history but a good show for its time. Outstanding theme music of course - check out YouTube for Mireille Mathieu's totally brilliant version; and for the best ever orchestral version by Geoff Love (yes, I know, hard to believe but just try it and you'll be convinced).
Well packaged, delivered safely and on time. One for the shelf.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Terrific but should have learned lessons from The Longest Day,
This review is from: Is Paris Burning ? [DVD] (1966) (DVD)I remember seeing this epic as a teenager and loved it then, especially Maurice Jarre's wonderful score. He seemed to compose every other film score at this point and sometimes they began to merge with one another (see also Night of the Generals). Ok, the acting in Is Paris Burning is a bit variable and even now I can't work out if some of the French actors were dubbed. Gert Frobe, as the unfortunate Von Choltitz, is excellent, though there is still a degree of controversy as to whether he really did defy Hitler's order to blow up Paris - unbelievable to think this could have happened.
I do think they could have helped the narrative by introducing major players with a caption, as they did in The Longest Day. All in all, though, this is a nearly great movie and I particularly like how the film gradually changes into colour at the point of liberation.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Conscientious but arthritic,
This review is from: Is Paris Burning ? [DVD] (1966) (DVD)Rene Clement's exhaustive and exhausting account of the liberation of Paris is one of those all-star pseudo-documentary epics of WW2 which came into fashion in the wake of "The Longest Day". On paper it should have worked - script by Gore Vidal and Francis Ford Coppola - but it gets bogged down in excessive detail, and a kind of propagandist mindset which drains the action of drama.
This film was made in 1966, at the height of Gaullism, when the myths of the Resistance and French heroism were still unchallenged. In this film every Frenchman and Frenchwoman is a member of the Resistance, nobody collaborated or even supported the Nazis, and a spontaneous uprising of all the people in August 1944 pretty much confined the Germans to barracks. Except that there was fear of a German counter-attack which would blow up the city, so a heroic Frenchman has to go through enemy lines to persuade the Yanks to liberate Paris. They refuse, so a French Brigade makes a dash for the capital on its own, drawing an American Brigade to chase them in case they bugger it up on their own. How far this is from the truth is a matter of argument,but it certainly isn't the whole truth. But the French/American money talks, so all Frenchmen and Americans are Good. (The British, not having put up any finance, aren't even mentioned.)
Inside this sprawling mess there is a fascinating intimate little film struggling to get out, which is the relationship between the German Commander, von Choltitz (Gert Frobe) and the Swedish Consul, Nordling (Orson Welles), whose task it is to persuade the German to ignore Hitler's instructions and not to put Paris to the torch as they retreat. Choltitz knows that destroying Paris will not save the war for Germany. He wants a way out, but he wants a way out with dignity which will not get him replaced, and he wants only to concede what he has to concede. The tortuous process of negotiation, what is acceptable, what cannot be given, is well realised. This is a sweltering August, and Frobe and Welles are both very fat. The two heavy men sweating tortuously through their arguments give the issues a kind of gravitas and importance which no amount of booms and bangs can achieve. Indeed the German Frobe/Choltitz is paradoxically the only character who emerges with interest, being both heroic and tragic in trying to find a way out, and then vilified by the partisan French when finally captured. It's a heavyweight performance to carry a very heavy film.
Elsewhere the need to be exhaustive and to give every guest star a sufficiently effective cameo drags the movie way down. The Paris of the movie is almost totally lacking in atmosphere. The streets are deserted in the fictional scenes, by contrast to the documentary scenes which are skilfully interewoven. Where are the young people, the Zazou, the cultural guerillas playing illegal jazz and dodging the thugs of the french Fascist Party, for example? This is a film drained of life.
There is little to indicate that this film was made by the director of "Jeux Interdits" and "Plein Soleil". One final thing which kills it is the dubbing of the whole thing into English - only Hitler gets subtitles. A genuinely multi-lingual film, with all the complexities that involves, would have been much more interesting. What language does a German commander speak to a Swedish consul? English? French, the language of diplomacy? It would be good to know, and could be deliciously ironic. Instead we get bad translations, flatly delivered and even the American actors are out of synch.
If you want a more convincing feel of the French Resistance, try Melville's "Army of Shadows", Army Of Shadows [DVD]  alert to every nuance of loyalty and betrayal.
5.0 out of 5 stars Black and white but good.,
This review is from: Is Paris Burning ? [DVD] (1966) (DVD)I like this film. Maybe not as good as I remember it in the cinema but that was many years ago. If you like war films you'll like this, and you'll be humming the theme tune forever.
5.0 out of 5 stars Is Paris burning,
This review is from: Is Paris Burning ? [DVD] (1966) (DVD)This is a film i had never seen before but turnd out to be very good i recomend it to aney one who like,s war film,s
4.0 out of 5 stars DVD,
This review is from: Is Paris Burning ? [DVD] (1966) (DVD)Have looked for this dvd for a great menay years now, I collect b&w dvd of westyerns and war storeis.
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic of film making,
This review is from: Is Paris Burning ? [DVD] (1966) (DVD)Filmed twenty two years after events but still close enough to resonate. This lengthy, black and white film construction of the near destruction of Paris (think Warsaw-which was Hitler's plan for Paris) and then its liberation with minimal destruction. However, it is not a documentary and is at times disjointed. How did the German's lose control of parts of Paris? What episodes of the underground/resistance story remains untold (think factionalism, betrayal and treachery by your own). Collaborators. But this film captures sufficient to be enthralling. And as my wife pointed out (she came in on the last hour) the war scenes were at least realistic. And the film includes some actual footage of street fights and post liberation events (De Gaulle).
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Is Paris Burning ? [DVD] (1966) by René Clément (DVD - 2006)