From the Louis Hemon novel "M. Ripois and His Nemesis" about Andre Ripois, a philanderer in pursuit of love and riches from Paris to London. Andre is breaking up with his wife, Catherine, ... See full summary »
Gervaise Macquart, a young lame laundress, is left by her lover Auguste Lantier with two boys... She manages to make it, and a few years later she marries Coupeau, a roofer. After working ... See full summary »
Oslo, April 19th 1945, as the Third Reich is living its last days, a group of Nazis and sympathizers (a Wehrmacht general; an SS commander and his "assistant"; an Italian industrialist and ... See full summary »
1941 in a small town in Nazi occupied France. Against the will of its elderly male and his adult niece residents, the Nazis commandeer a house for one of their officers, Lt. Werner von ... See full summary »
Two men, a painter and a poor guy, have to cross over Paris by night during World War II and to deliver black market meat. As they walk along dark Parisian streets, they encounter various ... See full summary »
René Clément directed this exceptional film which captures an important but often ignored part of the Allied war effort in WWII. It chronicles the efforts by the French railway workers to hinder the German war machine. What makes the film work wonderfully is the non-professional actors--like the Neo-realist actors in post-war Italian films (such as by DeSica and Rossellini). This gives the movie a great sense of realism--almost like a documentary that was somehow filmed as events really took place--though it was made just after the war.
The film begins sometime after the German occupation began--it's never exactly certain. During this time, random acts of sabotage occur but they are mostly annoying and are seemingly unorganized. However, partway through the film, the Resistance receives word that the Normandy invasion has occurred. Suddenly, the full extent of the French Resistance is obvious, as the entire effort to use the rails to reinforce the German army are frustrated in many, many ways--ranging from sabotaging the tracks and equipment to even attacks on the trains themselves by partisans.
"La Bataille du Rail" ("The Battle of the Rails") works very well--mostly because in addition to the non-actors working in the film, the director and writers (one of which was the director himself) used a lot of tense little vignettes in the film to draw in the viewer. Perhaps some today might find it all a bit boring (after all, they are more interested, perhaps, in seeing the newest Brandon Frazier film), but as a history teacher, I think it's a must-see! Wonderful.
By the way, you can't blame the film makers for this, but the print I saw was pretty shabby. It had a lot of scratches and the white captions were poor--blending into the scenes at times and also, occasionally, mistranslated or using jargon that is too technical (full of railroad terms and jargon). I would LOVE to see this film restored and re-captioned!
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