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I Accuse (1938)

J'accuse! (original title)
After serving in the trenches of World War I, Jean Diaz recoils with such horror that he renounces love and personal pleasure to immerse himself in scientific research, seeking a machine to... See full summary »

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Cast

Credited cast:
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Line Noro ...
Marie Lou ...
Flo
Jean-Max ...
Henri Chimay
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Paul Amiot ...
Le capitaine
Marcel Delaître ...
François Laurin (as Delaître)
Renée Devillers ...
Helene
...
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Leotard
Georges Rollin ...
Pierre Fonds
Georges Saillard ...
Giles Tenant
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Storyline

After serving in the trenches of World War I, Jean Diaz recoils with such horror that he renounces love and personal pleasure to immerse himself in scientific research, seeking a machine to prevent war. He thinks he has succeeded, but the government subverts his discovery, and Europe slides with seeming inevitability toward World War II. In desperation, Diaz summons the ghosts of the war dead from the graves and fields of France to give silent, accusing protest. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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A timely drama of momentous significance

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Drama | Horror | Sci-Fi | War

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6 November 1939 (USA)  »

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I Accuse  »

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1.37 : 1
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Remake of J'accuse! (1919) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Abel Gance is a titan.
7 October 2001 | by See all my reviews

Titan is the right word for a director who is the French equivalent of a David Wark Griffith.He borrowed from Zola his famous sentence "I accuse!" which comes from the Dreyfuss affair.(people should try to see William Dieterle's "life of Emile Zola" which focuses on it).

"J'accuse" is one of the most convincing and impressive pacifist film of the whole history of the seven art.I'm sure its first half-hour influenced Kubrik's "paths for glory".There are three versions of it:the 1919 one,now forever lost,the 1922 one,with a new and watered-down ending,because of the military censors.Then the 1938 one,which is,to my mind ,the best.The historical context was so threatening that Gance's movie seemed like a cry of terror.IT was terribly different of what was going on in the French cinema at the time :Marcel Carné used to hide his fears behind metaphors for instance

The first half-hour depicts life in the trenches.Some lines are as provoking as you can imagine.A soldier:"soon there won't be enough trees to make crosses".A little girl:"I want my dad to bring me back a gun to kill the war".The armistice may come quick in the movie,but you must remember that Gance had a message to send to the world.

Armistice scenes are astounding:a bugle call resounds while the camera shows a dying soldier.The crowds rejoice as the soldiers salute the dead in voices chocked by emotion.The aftermath of war as filmed by Gance had certainly a strong influence on later movies.

The essential of the movie takes place 20 years later .A survivor,played by Victor Francen,had sworn his soldiers pals who died there would not be another war.Then he begins his incredible task.I want to insist on that:Victor Francen is so good,so sublime,that you must see this movie in French,with English subtitles.Dubbed in English,Francen 's tour de force would lose most of its strength.You should hear him screaming "J'accuse! J' accuse!" People around him thinks he's gone nuts.One breath-taking scene shows him breaking everything in sight.A sublime shot:he's just brought under control, then a gun hanging on a wall comes down and fall.

For the last part of his movie,Gance outdoes himself;using horror movie codes,stupefying(for the time) special effects, Francen's extraordinary tragedian skills,and an editing to rival David Wark Griffith's "intolerance",he leads us to believe the unbelievable.The Dead awakening will haunt you long after you've seen the movie.The use of the Verdun memorial and its tower make me think of movies that were yet to come!("2001" and its monolith,for instance)

French movies had never been better than in the thirties.I wish I could find a mathematical formula to prove it.


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