Imagine Charlie Chaplin making a sweet and charming gay love story in his best silent-comedy style, and you have War Story.
Ronnie, a strapping, good-looking soldier going off to WW1 takes the place of Edna Purviance, and the tramp-character is here played by Metly Morville, a wide-eyed fellow in a bowler-hat working as a waiter. Ronnie and Metly fall in love, yet there are problems....
War story could be written off as brilliant pastiche, of course. The stock characters are all here: The fat man with the huge moustache, the silly old dame, the lovely young thing, the sneaky thief. The pratfalls, the fisticuffs, the captions, - all here! The interior of the restaurant looks exactly like a set at Mack Sennett-studios in 1915.
And yet: There is a scene of two men being beaten up and thrown out of the restaurant for being "pansies". That, of course, is the way gays were treated back then. So there is a darker message of ignorance and intolerance being addressed here. And, of course, you would never see two men fall in love like this in the silents. Unthinkable.
Overall, I give this film a 10/10, if only for the sheer audacity and novelty of it. I hope Baumgartner will return to this simple way of making films. His audience will love him for it.
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