Les Croix de bois (Wooden Crosses) (1932)
Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.
as Gilbert Demachy
as Caporal Breval
as Le Capitaine
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No matter how well intentioned socially conscious movies may be, they have a tendency to age very badly due to societal norms constantly shifting.(So, relax, those of you who hate "Crash."(2005)) For example, look at the topic of gay marriage. Were we even discussing this ten years ago?
War in all of its lunacy and immense waste of human life is sadly the exception. And that is even taking in consideration how much warfare has changed since the gritty "Wooden Crosses" was made in 1932. It starts on a giddy note, as the French populace is excited at the prospect of going to war against Germany in World War I. The movie focuses on one of the enlistees, Gilbert Demachy(Pierre Blanchar), a law student, as he fights alongside a group of other soldiers. As time wears on, their high spirits wane as conditions get increasingly worse and the casualties mount. Oh and did I mention the lice? That is nothing compared to the knocking the soldiers hear which can only mean the Germans are tunneling under them to place a mine. As bad as that may sound, I have rarely seen anything as agonizing as the ending. There can be little worse than that.
(Originally reviewed in the blog section on February 27, 2009.)
Director Raymond Bernard gives us an unromanticized view of trench warfare in 1932's Wooden Crosses, a film of amazing visual quality. It's a visual quality that borrows heavily from 1930's "All Quiet on the Western Front". The story as well, is heavily influenced by the story of All Quiet on the Western Front, only telling it from the point of view of french soldiers as opposed to german. But unlike the earlier film, I think it's misrepresenting Wooden Crosses to call it "anti-war". The fact that it shows "war is hell" and makes it clear that war isn't fun isn't any more anti-war than any other war film that's ever been made. It's a fairly good war movie however, and has great production values.
Plays like kind of a "greatest hits of war movie clichÃ©s". One of my least favorites is the one where the rookie gets introduced to the guys, and of course each has their own quirk/trait that they're identified with. Like "this is Joe, the loudmouth of the company" or "and this guy here is Frank, he's meaner than he looks". However, Bernard's filmmaking style is impressive, it appears to be about 15-20 years ahead of its time. He manages some very poetic moments.
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