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Is Paris Burning (Chk)
Is Paris Burning
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Kids & Family

This big-budget, star-studded epic 1966 French film features well-known actors from both Europe and America in the story of the final battles over the liberation of Paris at the end of the Second World War. Is Paris Burnin...  more »


Movie Details

Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Kids & Family
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Kids & Family
Studio: Paramount
Format: DVD
DVD Release Date: 06/10/2003
Release Year: 2003
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 3
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Movie Reviews

A piece of little-known history
David C. Veeneman | Lincolnshire, IL USA | 08/07/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Who would have thought that Paris would be saved by the German general that Hitler sent to burn it to the ground? This gem of a film from the 1960's tells the story.

The film was a colossal failure in its initial realease; it's often called a 'turkey'. I'd have to disagree pretty strongly with that assessment. It's biggest problem, at least for American audiences, is that it's--well, so French. Even though the screenplay was written by Gore Vidal and Francis Ford Coppola, the cast is nearly all French--some of the biggest French stars of the 1960s. Americans are relegated to cameo roles.

Americans also disliked the film because it claims that the French, not the Americans, liberated Paris. That notion has never gone down well on this side of the pond. But if you read the book (and just about any other account of the incident), it's clear that the Americans and British wanted to bypass Paris. They had good reason for doing so--Patton argued that he would save enough gasoline to make the Rhine by the end of August and end the war by Christmas.

The Parisian insurrection in mid-August made those plans pretty questionable, but it was DeGaulle's threat to withdraw his forces and march on Paris, together with horror at the destruction of Warsaw (which Stalin was 'bypassing' at the same time), that changed things. Even so, the Allies let French Gen. LeClerc take the city, because they still had hopes of maintaining the momentum of their main thrust toward the Rhine.

If you are a Freedom-Fry lover, you probably won't like this film. If you are interested in this period of history, read the book first, but definitely watch the movie. Some reviews criticize this movie for dubbing it's French actors (many of whom dubbed their own lines into English). I certainly would have preferred the movie that way, and I dearly wish someone would restore it with French dialog. But, had that been done, about 85% of the movie would have been in French. That's a hard sell in America, whether the year is 1966 or 2006.

Finally the movie is in black and white, except, oddly enough, for the end credits. Many assume that's because of the amount of archive footage incorporated into the movie. But the real reason is that the French government refused to allow the Nazi flag to fly over any Parisian buildings for the exterior shots. A compromise was worked out where limited display of the swastika was permitted, but only on a gray flag (rather than a red one). During filming, one elderly Parisian stumbled across a couple of extras in German uniforms and ran off screaming "They're back!"

But in 1966. the era of black and white was over, and the use of B&W was the third strike against this film for American audiences. It's a shame, because this film really does a great job of showing how German Gen. Von Choltitz saved the city, at considerable risk to himself and, ultimately, his family. His reason? He concluded that Hitler was insane, and that the destruction of Paris would do nothing to improve the German military position. "If I thought that destroying Paris would aid our war effort," he said, "then I would not hesitate to burn it to the ground. But that is not the case."

Recommended for WW II buffs and those who love Paris."
Excellent cast and great film
Paul Sayles | Japan | 01/02/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This all star international cast does an excellent job of portraying the events leading up to the liberation of Paris in August 1944. The film tells the story from the perspective of the German and French forces with some participation, it seems, from US forces. This film is a good overview of general activities in the battle but to fully understand the events leading up to the revolt by the French Undergound against German occupation forces, one needs to read the book by the same name and other military history. Internal frictions within the underground is downplayed in the film. The treatment of the German occupation force is good and makes a clear distinction between the military occupation force and the Gestapo in their actions during the battle.This film gives good treatment to a high point in French history and presents a balanced, thoughtful film. The theme music is unforgetable and captures the spirit of Paris in August 1944. This should be in all historical film collections."
Fortunately Paris was saved!
Maximiliano F Yofre | Buenos Aires, Argentina | 10/10/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The dreadful question "Is Paris burning?" was put by Hitler himself to the German commander of Paris and closes the film story.
It anticipated the mad politic he will follow in the last year of WWII: burn it all, destroy it all (enemy or German alike).
The fate Paris eluded occurred to Warsaw, when the Soviet "liberators" decided to stop their march towards Germany, allowing the Nazis to destroy the City and annihilate the pro western resistance.
The film is based on the book of the same title written by Collins and Lapierre and is a very good visual transcription.

The late French director Réne Clément has signed other remarkable movies on the WWII subject as "La Battaille du Rail" (1946 The Battle of the Rails) and the poetic story "Jeux Interdits" (1952 Forbidden Games), but in my opinion the present film is his best ever.
Structured similarly to "The Longest Day" or "A Bridge to Far" it collects many short anecdotes performed by well known actresses & actors. From the cast we may point out as outstanding in their characterizations: Jean-Paul Belmondo as Yvess Morandat, Gert Fröebe as General von Choltitz , Orson Welles as Consul Nordling, Leslie Caron as Françoise Labé, selected from a very good collection of acting work.

The black and white photography, from Marcel Grignon, enhances the story; it makes you feel more "there". Some images are paradigmatic: the long line of German soldiers going up the stairs at the side of the Seine River; the crossing of the "no-man-lands" by the Resistance emissary; the young French students being massacred by the Gestapo; the Resistance members attacking the Panzer almost bare handed and so on. The list is longer as the film gives no respite until the end.
Last but not least the original music from Maurice Jarre, specially the "leitmotiv", is bonus to the whole movie.
I think a broad audience may enjoy this film.
Reviewed by Max Yofre.
Vivid but Difficult to Follow - in Tradition of Longest Day
David C. Veeneman | 08/21/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I loved watching this movie. It deftly splices documentary and fictional scenes to create an emotional, uplifting story of the individuals involved in the liberation of Paris (the greater emphasis is on the Parisian resistance). It is very much in the tradition of The Longest Day - many stars in cameos, a hundred short stories of bravery and resistance - among the French, Americans and Germans; it's often humorous. The music is superb (I have it going through my head now - 2 years after renting the movie). It's also fun to see virtually all the French male stars of the 1950s and 1960s in one movie - Jean-Paul Belmondo, Charles Boyer, Jean Louis Trintignant, Yves Montand, Alain Delon - the French casting for the movie pulled out all the stops.The wonderful emotional impact aside, the movie is actually difficult to follow. The primary reason is that the filmmakers apparently didn't want to offend anyone (except Nazis) so were not explicit on the Communist/Gaullist rivalry that is at the heart of the book (bottom line - the Gaullists elbowed out the Communists). Instead, the movie viewer watches a large resistance group that seems to fissure, but has no idea why, sees jealousies and rivalries without explanation. You'll see some French resistance members upset that others have captured the Police Headquarters, but have no idea why. The book gives you a sense of DeGaulle's understanding of the French, amounting to genius (and of why any American or Englishman in command would have found him outrageous to deal with).So, I'd suggest a truly CAREFUL read of the short, wonderful and fascinating book on which the movie is based - THEN watch the movie, which is glorious in its emotional impact."