Thursday, March 03, 2005

No Greater Glory

US © 1934 Columbia Pictures. P+D: Frank Borzage. SC: Jo Swerling – based on the novel A Pál-utcai fiúk (1907) by Ferenc Molnár (in Finnish Koulupoikia: Kirja Pál-kadun pojista (1913, Otava; trans. Matti Kivekäs). New trans. Koulupoikia by Outi Hassi. Otava, 2012. DP: Joseph August.
    Starring George Breakston (Nemecsek), Frankie Darro (Feri), Jackie Searl (Gereb), Jimmie Butler (Boka). 74 min.
    A print with beautiful definition from La Cinémathèque francaise.
    Viewed at Orion, Helsinki, 3 March 2005 (first time in Finland after the Filmistudio Projektio screening 25 Feb 1936).

The classic Ferenc Molnár novel on the warfare of two college boy gangs (the Pal Street Gang and the Red Shirts) in Pest is well handled by Borzage. It's still a valid account on boyhood psychology: group mentality, bravery, leadership, sacrifice. Fine sense of the ridiculous and the noble. The explicit anti-war statements are superfluous. The whole movement of the film is pacifist, yet Borzage makes us feel and understand the warrior's psyche. Relevant in understanding Hitler-Jugend, or today's suicide bombers. Excellent performances, fine direction of battling gangs, strong feeling of sorrow and irony as the film ends. ***+

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