Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bitter Victory (Nicholas Ray, 1957)

[The following is a contribution to the Nicholas Ray Blog-A-Thon for Tony Dayoub's Cinema Viewfinder.]

For the Nicholas Ray Blog-A-Thon being held at Cinema Viewfinder from Sept. 5-8, I've written a piece on Ray's elegant but unromantic war movie Bitter Victory at Cinelogue. A work of twisted purity, it uses a war as a backdrop for the more intimate, and thus more humanistically meaningful conflict between two men ostensibly on the same side. For a man who found the Romantic in self-immolation elsewhere, Ray's view of war is one of pure disgust: the death of one man, as they say, is tragic, but the death of millions is a statistic. Where he can find the sad resonance of one person's death reaching for his futile goals, the impersonal slaughter of war holds no glory. This makes for one of Ray's most downbeat and chilly films, but also one of his most passionately argued and affecting. And there's something so compelling about it that Godard's legendary praise of the movie still holds up. One of the master's finest works.

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