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 Posted:   Mar 31, 2014 - 2:54 PM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

Last night I watched "All Quiet on the Western Front" - the brilliant Lewis Milestone film from 1930 and taken from the novel by Erich Maria Remarque (which I haven't read). The DVD takes pride of place in my library, alongside such masterpieces as Griffith's "Birth of a Nation", Pabst's "Pandora's Box" and Murnau's "Nosferatu" and "Sunrise" - the latter has some partial sychronization.

There's much to say about "All Quiet on the Western Front", in case anybody is interested. Firstly, it was made when sound film was as yet in its nascent phase. I notice that the titles acknowledge "synchronization and scoring" and this touched my heart deeply. The film is virtually without music, save for occasional diegetic incursions. The great cinematographer Arthur Edeson has painted a stunning canvas in monochrome of the horror of the first world war, taken from the German perspective. There is some back-projection, which is still rather primitive, but the tracking shots on the battleground and the use of the 'dolly shot' really freed up the camera at a time when these large, unwieldy objects were hamstrung by massive blimp covers to conceal the sounds of mechanisms and sprockets, as well as other impediments. It was actually Edeson, IMO, who 'liberated' the camera and really got it moving for his action sequences, with sound. But the sound is unquestionably, and predictably, drummy and one-dimensional. Not so the image, script or acting. On that last point, I must qualify my comments by saying that cinema was still in an uncertain stage about the 'limits' of cinema acting, which included notions of timing - how much dialogue to use and how much time it should take up in the film. The acting style is, therefore, sometimes over-theatricalized with lines too rapidly delivered. But this does not spoil the film.

Secondly, Lewis Milestone (Russian emigre) directed the film with great sensitivity and under-statement, despite its 'global' narrative dimension. Lew Ayres plays the lead role and magnificent close-ups and static camera shots confer a kind of stillness amid the horror and chaos, allowing us to concentrate on the personal toll extracted by war on these young, idealistic men.

Finally, three scenes stand out; firstly, a young soldier dies in a hospital and the Lew Ayres character prays by his bedside. We suspect he's going to die but the first knowledge we have of this is a shot of Ayres wearing the man's boots in a halting walk down the steps and out, away from the hospital. Poetry right there. The second scene is one in the trenches where Ayres kills a French soldier and has to remain with him in the bunker because of the battle going on around him. But the French soldier dies very very slowly and the Ayres character becomes distraught about this, putting water to his dying lips with the sounds of gun and mortar fire going on out of shot. He finally touches the dying man on the shoulder and in a two shot of them (the soldier now dead) he asks,"Oh why did you make me kill you? I didn't want to." Right at that moment enemy becomes friend. It's one of the most powerful anti-war scenes I've ever watched, though it isn't there to accuse or blame (as stated in the opening titles).

The final scene which deserves mention is absolutely magnificent and one of the greatest images in American cinema; Ayres is in a bunker and he spies a butterfly outside - which symbolizes freedom and nature far removed from his 'imprisonment'. In a moment which speaks about humanity he reaches out through a hole in the bunker to touch the butterfly - and this shot comprises a close-up of his hand - when he is then killed by a sniper's bullet. The hand goes limp and, without any sound or music, the final tableau shows a line of the dead soldiers walking away from camera, looking back at us over their shoulders - all of this superimposed over white crosses like those in a war graveyard.

It's a masterpiece.

Here's a Wiki entry about the great Arthur Edeson, just to provide some general background information:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Edeson

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 31, 2014 - 6:09 PM   
 By:   joec   (Member)

I just watched a copy of the blu-ray which I purchased on eBay for $10!

It includes the silent version, which is better than the sound version.

Actually the silent version is not silent as it features a synchronized soundtrack with full music score, sound effects and occasional dialog.

Without the somewhat crudely recorded dialog, the non-dialog version, IMO, is an even more powerful film.

 
 Posted:   Mar 31, 2014 - 6:24 PM   
 By:   Sirusjr   (Member)

I watched it a few years ago for a history course and it was probably one of the most moving war films I've seen. It really is a classic.

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 31, 2014 - 10:34 PM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

I just watched a copy of the blu-ray which I purchased on eBay for $10!

It includes the silent version, which is better than the sound version.

Actually the silent version is not silent as it features a synchronized soundtrack with full music score, sound effects and occasional dialog.

Without the somewhat crudely recorded dialog, the non-dialog version, IMO, is an even more powerful film.


Can you please tell about this, as I do not know this version.

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 1, 2014 - 6:16 AM   
 By:   joec   (Member)

I just watched a copy of the blu-ray which I purchased on eBay for $10!

It includes the silent version, which is better than the sound version.

Actually the silent version is not silent as it features a synchronized soundtrack with full music score, sound effects and occasional dialog.

Without the somewhat crudely recorded dialog, the non-dialog version, IMO, is an even more powerful film.


Can you please tell about this, as I do not know this version.


this one:

http://www.amazon.com/Quiet-Western-Front-Blu-ray-Digital/dp/B006FE83T0/ref=sr_1_3?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1396358046&sr=1-3&keywords=all+quiet+on+the+western+front

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 1, 2014 - 7:53 AM   
 By:   Ralph   (Member)

Last night I watched "All Quiet on the Western Front" - the brilliant Lewis Milestone film from 1930 and taken from the novel by Erich Maria Remarque (which I haven't read). The DVD takes pride of place in my library, alongside such masterpieces as Griffith's "Birth of a Nation", Pabst's "Pandora's Box" and Murnau's "Nosferatu" and "Sunrise" - the latter has some partial sychronization...

It's a masterpiece.


See where you're coming from. Here's my view:

The cinemati will instruct that before Lewis Milestone’s 1930 “All Quiet on the Western Front,” Alexander Dovzhenko made “Arsenal,” regarded as one of the great experimental war films. It didn’t get a worldwide audience, however, nor could it speak to the masses because technique triumphed over content. Also coming before “All Quiet” were Valentino’s “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” Walsh’s “What Price Glory?” and Wellman’s “Wings.” Out the same year as Milestone’s “Ph.D. Thesis” (how Sergei Eisenstein labeled it) — Howard Hughes’ “Hell’s Angels.” But “All Quiet” was the right movie at the right time with the right pacifist message so patently earnest and clear that it transcended any language, just as Erich Maria Remarque’s novel did. Likely impacting the millions of viewers then and what impacts us today are the suicidal battles — the mindless ant farm warfare. The movie underscores the irrational — how obedient disposables marched in wars throughout the ages to commit virtual hara-kiri for the 1% royalty and ruling classes. (After seeing this picture, your heart of darkness knows why Hitler, mustard-gassed and temporarily blinded during WWI, used Franco to perfect war methods that attempted to reduce German casualties.) Thus, “All Quiet” becomes a dual directive: the insanity of slaughter, the inefficiency of war combat — indisputably why the movie was banned in countries wherein the winds of war blew. (And later Kubrick’s “Paths of Glory” suffered similar bans.) Some nitpicking: Milestone uses as his acting center that milksop Lew Ayres, who looks like John Wayne’s pipsqueak brother (especially in beret), like Mel Gibson when making a return visit to his old school, like Jack Lemmon when wearing that German helmet. If this epic isn’t really about acting, the sincerity of the “acting” is inescapable — there’s too much of it. In his collection “On Movies,” Esquire critic Dwight Macdonald bitched: “Too many dugout scenes, and too full of confusion and squalor.” Did anyone ever point out to Dwight — and the champagne-guzzling gentry — that war is confusing and filled with misery?

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 1, 2014 - 11:47 AM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

An excellent assessment overall of the film, thank you. I disagree, however, about Lew Ayres. Firstly, the studio system (such as it then was) would have been part and parcel of the decisions regarding casting - as would the Director who was chosen. Secondly, I think Ayres was a super innocent and he made the war look even worse because those quiet, sensitive, idealistic types are usually the first to crack. He did not. I've already commented on the limits of the acting in the film and I think it 'suffered' the same fate as early talkies for the reasons I've specified.

I did not know the background information about the film, or war in general. I didn't like "Wings" or some of those earlier films you mentioned, thinking they lacked the 'reality' of "All Quiet" - and many were essentially films about 'the boys'.

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 1, 2014 - 1:48 PM   
 By:   cinemel1   (Member)

The blu-ray of All Quiet is on sale at Amazon for $11.79.

 
 Posted:   Apr 2, 2014 - 5:50 AM   
 By:   Ray Faiola   (Member)

A few years ago I found a silent print of the original 1930 trailer to ALL QUIET. Heretofore, the only trailer shown was the Realart reissue trailer that touted the Academy Award.

The most astonishing thing about the trailer is that it was made BEFORE Zasu Pitts was replaced as Lew Ayres' mother.

Since it was obviously originally a talking trailer - and not a trailer for the silent version - I created a new soundtrack for it, struck a new negative and made up new 16mm prints. Unfortunately, I did not have Pitts' voice, so she talks with a bit of a brogue in my new print of the trailer.



By the way - you'll notice two splices in the print. Those were inflicted by the Film Forum in NYC who borrowed the trailer for a screening of the film. Their projectionist mangled the trailer and then denied it. I should have listened to Polonius!

 
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