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In this sprawling, star-laden film, we see the struggles of various French resistance factions to regain control of Paris near the end of World War II. The Nazi general in charge of Paris, Dietrich von Cholitz (Fröbe), is under orders from Hitler himself to burn the city if he cannot control it or if the Allies get too close. Much of the drama centers around the moral deliberations of the general, the Swedish ambassador (Welles), and the eager but desperate leaders of the resistance. Written by
Carl J. Youngdahl <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This is a good movie, but only if you have read the book. Otherwise, it would appear to be muddled and difficult to follow. There were so many different resistance factions operating in Paris at the time of the liberation it is difficult to keep them straight. The movie doesn't help you in that regard. Reading the book gives you a much better perspective on the part each faction played in the liberation.
The little vignettes you see with characters appearing in the film for only a few minutes are all true. Unfortunately, they don't always make sense to an uninformed viewer and they give the viewer the sense of a badly edited film.
The true story of the last few days before the liberation is extremely remarkable. Hitler sent a hard core general he trusted to destroy Paris. It is incredible that he disobeyed orders and saved the city.
What I really loved about the movie was the city itself. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The film was shot mostly in the actual locations where the events portrayed took place. As a lover of history, I have been fortunate to have visited Paris more than once and walked these locations fully aware of what happened there. That makes this movie special for me. But, the film does have problems.
Besides being a bit disjointed, the French and German dialog were dubbed in English. It would have been better with subtitles, although many of the same actors did their own English dubbing. The film is in black and white, which doesn't bother me, but it might have been better in color. One of the main reasons for B&W was the Nazi flags. The French authorities refused to allow red and black Nazi flags to fly in Paris, even for a movie. They agreed only to have black and gray flags. But the black and white filming also allowed the blending of authentic war footage with the movie. Also remember that another similar film, The Longest Day, was shot a couple of years earlier in B&W.
The film is filled with a small army of great international actors. That was fun, although I didn't buy Kirk Douglas as General Patton. Gert Frobe (Goldfinger) was excellent as the German general in charge of Paris and Charles Boyer was also excellent in his small role. The music was composed by Maurice Jarre and is just wonderful. Whenever I am in Paris, the music continually runs through my head. As a side note, Jarre obviously borrowed much of this soundtrack for use in "Grand Prix".
In short, this is a historical movie rather than a great film. I recommend you read the book to get the full impact of the movie. But understand this remarkable story of the liberation is stranger than fiction, which makes it a good read. And, if you ever visit Paris the movie will take on a whole new perspective.
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