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Many Wars Ago (1970)
"Uomini contro" (original title)

 -  Drama | War  -  17 September 1970 (Italy)
7.7
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 598 users  
Reviews: 5 user | 10 critic

On the Italian/Austrian front during World War I, a disastrous Italian attack upon the Austrian positions leads to a mutiny among the decimated Italian troops.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Mark Frechette ...
Lt. Sassu
Alain Cuny ...
Gen. Leone
...
Lt. Ottolenghi
Giampiero Albertini ...
Capt. Abbati
...
Lt. Santini
Franco Graziosi ...
Maj. Malchiodi
Mario Feliciani ...
Colonel Doctor
Alberto Mastino ...
Marrasi
Brunetto Del Vita ...
Col. Stringari
Nino Vingelli ...
Wounded Soldier from Naples
Zdravko Smojver
Antonio Pavan ...
Lt. Pavan
Emilio Bonucci
Francesco Acampora
Luigi Pignatelli ...
Avellini
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Storyline

In Northern Italy, WWI has turned into a bloody stalemate. Bogged down in their trenches on a barren highland, the men of an Italian infantry division have been given one objective: retake a commanding height from the enemy. Unfortunately, the tactical ingenuity of general Leone, the unpopular division commander, consists of supplementing frontal attacks against machine-guns with medieval fighting schemes. His dispirited troops must be prodded with ever harsher measures into storming the Austrian positions. As casualties mount, indignation spreads amongst the rank and file. Disturbed by the decisions of his superiors, lieutenant Sassu is progressively led to question the purpose of the war and to reconsider where his real duties lie. Written by Eduardo Casais <casaise@acm.org>

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Drama | War

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Release Date:

17 September 1970 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

Many Wars Ago  »

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Referenced in Unico - Francesco Rosi racconta Gian Maria Volonté (2014) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Impassioned but occasionally heavy-handed and not always convincing
27 April 2014 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

It's not so surprising that there are so few films about the Italian experience of World War One. The government was initially uncertain which side to take until the Allies offered the best deal in 1915 while their conduct of it was a literal bloody farce, with incompetent generals driving their men to mutiny and desertion in a succession of bloody defeats they blamed on those who followed their orders: even Mussolini couldn't spin an uplifting war movie out of that. Francesco Rossi's Many Wars Ago aka Uomini Contro/Against Men catalogues many of the outrages the officers committed on their men, making no bones that they were more of an enemy than the Germans, but its director's outrage only sporadically translates to the viewer. Part of the reason is it's a sometimes-schizophrenic film, shot with considerable resources but not always convincing, especially when the Yugoslavia extras die like schoolboys playing cowboys and Indians or when characters start shouting about class enemies in the middle of battle. Rosi is at his best when he's just observing the humourless absurdity, much of it wrought by Alain Cuny's monolithic general who'll gladly shoot an innocent man to serve as an example and seems more determined to kill his own men than the Germans – so much so that the latter even beg the Italians to retreat because they're tired of killing them so easily.

Yet with so few clearly defined characters it's hard to get involved in any human drama, reducing the dead almost to abstract mathematical equations – the one in ten of the regimental decimations – rather than lives lost. Some of the vignettes work, such as a tribunal deciding which wounded men in hospital to send to courts martial for self-inflicted wounds regardless of evidence, men sent into No Man's Land with useless armour looking like robots as they're picked off or a tense and ironic scene with a loophole and a sniper, but others are laid on with too heavy a hand, be it a mass execution with an overwrought operatic choir on the soundtrack to cajole you into feeling the appropriate outrage or one character being executed explicitly because he doesn't love war. It's a film of occasionally effective and well staged moments amid the misfires, but all too often it seems to have almost as little interest in the men who suffer as Cuny's defiantly indestructible general does.


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