A PFA series brings World War I films into focus
RM I can't think of a modern film about America's involvement in the First World War. I suspect with the American centennial coming up in 2017, that will change. But even documentary filmmakers haven't touched it. There was a 10-part British documentary series that was made 10 years ago, but we have nothing like that; Ken Burns isn't going to do something on World War I. The strange part is, it may be as influential as any war we ever fought, certainly more than World War II, in shaping what kind of country we became.
SFBG Why did you only choose one film that was made after World War II? Is it because there just aren't very many?
RM That's one reason. And they're not as interesting, since they more or less recycle the party line on World War I: it was terrible, it was unfair. There's no new news coming out about the First World War after Kubrick's movie, as far as I can tell.
SFBG Do you have a favorite among the movies you're showing?
RM No, I love all my children [laughs]. When you see Grand Illusion, how can you not respond to Renoir's humane view? This is the most generous view of the war, of officers, and of POWs, that you'll ever see. It's not exactly a comedy, but it's this remarkable way of reconciling enemies, and officers and enlisted men.
Paths of Glory never gets old. It's based on a historic event that took place in 1914, and kept on taking place; soldiers were frequently being executed for mutiny or cowardice when a military operation became a disaster.
I haven't seen All Quiet on the Western Front in a long time, and yet for me it's unforgettable. The big battle scene comes toward the beginning of the film, rather than where it usually comes at the end, and that makes all the difference. *
OVER THE TOP AND INTO THE WIRE: WWI ON FILM
Aug 2-27, $5.50-$9.50
Pacific Film Archive
2575 Bancroft, Berk