WHO ARE THE REAL LUNATICS?
Yesterday I was lucky enough to catch one of my all-time favorite movies thanks to my Dish Network subscription. KING OF HEARTS (aka LE ROI DE COEUR) is a remarkable anti-war film directed by Philippe De Broca which stars Alan Bates as a WWI Scottish infantryman sent to a French village to disarm a bomb left behind by the retreating German army.
Private Charles Plumpick is an odd selection for the highly important job since he is merely a carrier pigeon specialist with absolutely no training when it comes to defusing explosives. He does speak French, however, so his Commanding Officer "volunteers" him for this dangerous assignment. The brilliance of this insightful, surreal cult allegory rests primarily on the premise that by the time Pvt. Plumpick arrives all of the regular villagers have fled to escape the impending detonation. They not only leave their homes and shops, they also leave the gate to the insane asylum open so the inmates will be able to fend for themselves. Within hours every one of the "lunatics" has assumed a role in the village and the absurdist fun begins.
The screenplay by Daniel Boulanger is based on a short story by Maurice Bessy. It is a light-hearted romp with a surgically penetrating point of view which asks: "Who are the real lunatics?" Is it those who just hours ago were incarcerated in a mental institution or is it the English and German soldiers who slaughter one another simply because they are ordered to do so?
De Broca and company provide a clear-cut answer. One of the many profound lines of dialogue comes from one of the lunatic villagers who, in the aftermath of the horrific battle in the town square which mows down in a hail of gunfire every soldier and officer from both armies, quips: "Don't you think these actors are going a bit too far for a game?"
As we all know, war is not a game; but it can definitely be insane.
Other highlights include the lilting, yet highly evocative musical score by Georges Delerue and the casting of Genevieve Bujold in one of her first major screen appearances. She captures your heart...and I defy anyone to take their eyes off her when she is in a scene. Any scene, anyone -- man or woman.
Tomorrow, Thursday, December 29, Turner Classics will air another absolute must-see motion picture, Stanley Kubrick's PATHS OF GLORY starring Kirk Douglas, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready and Ralph Meeker. This is a another stunning antiwar film which will also remain in your heart and in your mind for a long, long time. Set your clocks to 5:30 p.m. Central time.