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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

WOODEN CROSSES (1931)



The international literary & cinematic success of ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT/’30 which humanized and even sympathized with the German soldier of WWI redounded in this French response. Raymond Bernard, a largely forgotten exemplar of the ‘cinema of quality’ despised by le nouvelle vague succumbs at first to character & situational exposition that does have an officially sanctioned smell to it. But soon enough, his use of archetypal soldiers works to not only accentuate the universality of war & its losses, but in terrifyingly locating the mind-set of commanding officers who sacrifice abstract numbers of men for meters of ground. Once we reach the front, the accumulation of realistic detail and the technical audacity of Bernard’s war scenes overwhelm any nitpicking. The handheld camera work is particularly unexpected as are some of the truly dangerous looking explosions and general savagery, to say nothing of the painfully nihilistic outlook. A remarkable find and remarkably modern.

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