Way Down in the Trenches


"Too much has happened. Someone's got to be hurt. The only question is who."

I either never knew or had forgotten that Paths of Glory, one of Stanley Kubrick's best films, was based on a novel. The book in question, written by Humphrey Cobb and first published in 1935, is now back in print with a new introduction by Wire creator David Simon.

Writing in the Baltimore Sun, Michael Sragow explores Simon's passion for the story, and for the humanistic, anti-authoritarian ideals that animate it:

A few years ago, exasperated by interviewers who viewed Season 5 of "The Wire" strictly as a roman a clef about The Baltimore Sun, Simon told a reporter that "the film template in his head" was actually "the most important political film of the 20th century, which is 'Paths of Glory.'" Simon said it spoke more eloquently than any other picture "to the essential triumph of institutions over individuals and … to the fundamental inhumanity of the 20th century and beyond."

He said his dramatic models for The Sun's top editors -- and for key powers at City Hall and the port of Baltimore -- were the generals in Kubrick's movie…."You can't help but love those characters," Simon says, "because they embody so much of what goes on in institutions. They're utterly invested in the status quo unless they see an advantage to themselves. They operate on the pain-pleasure principle: Anything that gives me pleasure is good, anything that gives me pain is bad."

NEXT: De Rugy on the Big Lie of 3 Million Stimulus Jobs

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  1. Best war movie ever.

    Better than Apocalypse Now.

    If they showed this in high schools instead of Dickens movies the libertarian party would increase in size by an order of magnitude.

    1. I don't know if I would call it the best war movie ever, but it is up there. And it isn't one of Kubric's best films. It is his best film, even better than Dr. Strangelove or 2001.

      1. I'd rank it second, after Strangelove, but it's a close call.

        1. it is. I love Strangelove. I can watch it over and over again. It is wildly entertaining. Paths of Glory in contrast is a once every few years thing. Paths of Glory is more powerful. Stangelove is more entertaining. So it depends on how you look at it.

          1. Most of Kubrick's films are based on novels, although sometimes the movie has very little to do with the novel in the end. Dr. Strangelove is another example-it was based on a very serious cold war/world war III novel, but Kubrick decided it would work better as a dark comedy instead.

            1. And he was right. Had that movie been serious it would have been at best another Fail Safe or Seven Days in May and at worst the most depressing movie of all time. As a comedy, it is a classic.

        2. I just thought I might mosey over to the War Room for a few minutes.

          1. Just remember "there is no fighting in the War Room".

          2. of course there is NO FIGHTING IN THE WAR ROOM!


        3. I tend to think that A Clockwork Orange is his best.

          1. "Eggy Weggs... I'd like to smash 'em!"

            1. I luv the nurse's ethusiastic and sunny disposition.

              'GOOD, lets try another'

              She seems to delight in Alex's naughty comments.

          2. While I have never seen Paths of Glory (a crime, I know), I agree with Fluffy. Lolita is my favorite, but I know it can be an arduous trek for some people.

            1. Netflix streaming

  2. Was that the one with Kirk Douglas?

    1. And Adolph Menjou and George McCready (the generals) at their absolute smarmiest best. An all time classic.

  3. I've got it in my netflix queue. Maybe it's time to bring it closer to the top.

  4. "to the essential triumph of institutions over individuals and ? to the fundamental inhumanity of the 20th century and beyond."

    Its a chilling movie. Simon's quote sums up why government must be kept small.

    As for Kubrick listings I split them before/after 2001. Paths is tops before, Clockwork after. The story, images, and concepts are all razor sharp.

  5. Back in a minute. Off to Netflix.

    1. Oh so that is what the kids are calling it now? I heard "I am taking my talent to South Beach" was the new hip term.

      1. It's pronounced "Souf Beach."

  6. JINX!

    owe me a beer....

  7. I'm ashamed to say I didn't know of this Kubrik film. Hopefully, I can stream this one from Netflix.

    1. Aaaand I'm back. Added to my instant queue, which I can stream from the teevee.

      I loves the Intertubes.

      1. It's amazing how we live in the future, isn't it?

        1. I'm watching it on my Newspad while waiting for my PanAm flight back to Earth from Space Station V.

          1. Did you bring back a monolith bottle opener like I asked you to get at the gift shop?

            1. Sure did! Perfectly proportioned at 1:4:9. Makes your beer evolve.

              I also ran across a Monolith Action Figure that I got for the kids.

              1. It's actually perfectly proportioned only if it has dimensions 1:4:9:16:25:etc.

                1. Fuck! Ripped off again! My bush baby was fake, too.

                2. It has them, we just can't see them.

                  1. Say, you're right! The disclaimer on the package plainly states that some dimensions may not be visible to human senses. It's a pretty cool little toy, too. . . .My God, it's full of stars!

        2. where's my flying car? i was promised flying cars.

  8. So, you people who have read A Clockwork Orange, did Kubrick make the right choice by omitting the last chapter? I say yes.

    1. oh yeah, its been hinted the last chapter is a cop-out, but maybe not. Movie ends on a perfect note.

      'I was cured all right...."

      1. I have always liked both endings. The movie ending works on a more visceral level and really just reinforces what an evil bastard Alex is. Whereas the book is a little bit deeper and shows how fucked up the society as a whole is if Alex can fit in normally without really paying for his crimes.

    2. The book makes the point that time is the ultimate socialization device. This is too much of a subtle point to really explore in a coda of a film.

      The book is amazing, but, like most of Kubrick's work, it is a different creature from the movie made from it.

      1. It's a good point, but I thought it was made in a hamfisted way. It really would have ruined the movie if Kubrick had tried to put it in.

      2. its an important point. Kubrick was smart enough to make a movie out of a book, not film the book. King hated the Shining because its a great movie rather than his book on film.

        1. As far as I could tell from reading reviews on IMDB all the people who really hated the movie but loved the book had abusive, alcoholic fathers and were disappointed that the movie emphasizes the supernatural over alcoholism as the explanation of why Jack goes off his rails.

        2. Kubrick wasn't doing that at all. He was clearing his conscience.

          1. That article had me right to the top of Page 2 when it started talking about saucer technology and faking the moon landings. Amazing how sane insane people can seem.

          2. That was delightfully insane.

          3. Got a chance to read the rest of it. So, if Kubrick did the Apollo 11 landing, who did they get to fake the sequels?

            Ron Howard was only, like, 16 when they faked Apollo 13 but he had been in show business all his life. I wouldn't rule him out.

          4. Hmm, Irwin Allen was wrapping up a sci-fi movie right at the time of Apollo 13.

    3. I think so.

      I also tend to think that Burgess was making a slightly different point than Kubrick, and that Burgess' point of view requires the last chapter, but Kubrick's doesn't.

      There is in Burgess the germ of the idea that the violent depradations of Alex Delarge are just a normal and human attribute of youth, that can be grown out of. Therefore the attempt to quash Alex' free will is wrong because it goes against genuine human impulse and human nature.

      That really is not what Kubrick used the story to say, so the "redemptive" chapter where the narrator "matures" doesn't have a place in his own version of the story.

  9. The Paths of Glory is a theme that comes up a lot. It's the same theme in the passage in Atlas Shrugged concerning the train's getting thru the tunnel. It comes up in How To Succeed in Business (Without Really Trying). So it can be played as tragedy or comedy, when it's really both, and it's familiar to most people in large organiz'ns.

  10. How the hell did I miss this one? Had no idea either.

  11. It's sort of the opposite of the story of King Canute and the tide.

  12. Paths of Glory is a good film--highly recommended.

  13. Funny, isn't it, how members of large media organizations were just sure that Wire episodes based on the evils of big institutions just had to be about them.

    1. It is always about them. Reasons why crappy movies that no one watches but are about reporters, like Almost Famous, get great reviews. There is no better topic of conversation or no better subject than the media.

        1. But it wasn't worthy of the praise it got. It only got so much praise because journalists love movies about themselves.

      1. Kate Hudson was pretty hot, "I am a golden god!" was a pretty good line, and it was cool that Humble Pie got mentioned. Other than that, there wasn't much worthwhile in that movie.

        1. She is hot, even though she has no boobs. Not as hot as her mother was back in the day, but plenty hot. My only problem with her is she was married to the dirty hippie from the Black Crows. If I ever got to bang her, I am not sure I could put that vision out of my mind.

  14. Bruce Beresford's movie Breaker Morant is essentially the same story, too, but it's not nearly as gut wrenching as Paths.

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