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Monday, September 13, 2010


A flat-footed, but often compelling look at WWI pilots and the demons that kept them flying. Lambert Wilson stars as a rich Frenchman whose tubercular past keeps him out of the war until he pays for lessons and learns how to handle a plane. Finally in uniform, he’s mentored by flying ace François Cluzet and gains quick success in the air, but none with his fellows on the ground. It’s not his melancholy ways & priggish manner that put them off, nor are they jealous of his ‘hits,’ but he seems to have garnered more than his fair share of luck, leaving less to go around. The director, Richard Dembo, only made a handful of pics, and this left nary a trace, but his tight budget made him keep a narrow psychological focus with just enough missions and war footage to make his points. (Some of the little planes look a bit out of period.) But it’s often a fascinating (and different) look at how an intellectual (and a French intellectual, at that) functions in war. And, in the enigmatic final flying sequence, a ballet of death between two planes & their pilots that’s like an existential dogfight.

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