Bitter Victory (1957)
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Though Bitter Victory features a mission to capture enemy plans from a German stronghold in Libya during World War II, it happens rather early in the film. The film is instead interested in the two officers leading the company through the desert afterward, a contrast in courage and cowardice, and thus an exploration of what those mean in the extreme conditions known collectively as war. Complicating matters is the fact that they both love the same woman, one her husband, the other her lover, which creates personal stakes for either survival. And it all takes place in the empty Libyan desert (a great use of the available locations), with stark photography creating a wasteland where this struggle can take place, away from society, from prying eyes, from the woman they love. Whoever makes it out certainly can decide what story they will tell. And though the cowardly man can certainly puff himself up in public, there will always be one person who knows the truth, and that's himself, which is well captured in the final scene. Richard Burton is excellent as a philosopher-soldier, but Curd Jürgens has more subtle beats to play as the truly tragic character here. And hey, always fun to see Christopher Lee where he's neither a monster nor a monster hunter.
"There was theatre (Griffith), poetry (Murnau), painting (Rossellini), dance (Eisenstein), music (Renoir). Henceforth there is cinema. And the cinema is Nicholas Ray."
Godard's review of Bitter Victory.
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In 3 official lists
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This movie ranks #415 in Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Cinema
This movie ranks #500 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films: 1001-2000
This movie ranks #536 in David Thomson's Have You Seen?