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95 of 98 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A piece of little-known history
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 is often called a 'turkey'. I'd have to disagree pretty strongly with that assessment. Its biggest problem, at least for American...
Published on August 7, 2005 by David C. Veeneman

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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Will Goldfinger burn Paris?
I fail to understand why a film company would go through the process of cleaning up a negative for DVD and not bother trying to source the original soundtrack for the same DVD. There must exist, somewhere, the original language soundtrack to "Is Paris Burning?" as least in some form. Even an original mono soundtrack included as a bonus would have done the trick...
Published on February 20, 2007 by Anthony Hand


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95 of 98 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A piece of little-known history, August 7, 2005
By 
David C. Veeneman (Southern California) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Is Paris Burning? (DVD)
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 is often called a 'turkey'. I'd have to disagree pretty strongly with that assessment. Its biggest problem, at least for American audiences, is that it is--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.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fortunately Paris was saved!, October 10, 2004
By 
This review is from: Is Paris Burning? [VHS] (VHS Tape)
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.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vivid but Difficult to Follow - in Tradition of Longest Day, August 21, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Is Paris Burning? [VHS] (VHS Tape)
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.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Will Goldfinger burn Paris?, February 20, 2007
By 
Anthony Hand (Dublin, Ireland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Is Paris Burning? (DVD)
I fail to understand why a film company would go through the process of cleaning up a negative for DVD and not bother trying to source the original soundtrack for the same DVD. There must exist, somewhere, the original language soundtrack to "Is Paris Burning?" as least in some form. Even an original mono soundtrack included as a bonus would have done the trick.

As it stands, what we get looks like the version that was done a few years ago for the NTSC video release.

The film itself looks clean and clear and it's a nice enough anamorphic transfer. The dubbed soundtrack, for what it's worth is clear, but nothing spectacular. But after all it is a 1966 film. The major problem technically, is that it quickly becomes very irritating seeing all these actors performances reduced to a level of stupidity because their words don't match their mouth movements. Dubbing has never sat right on foreign films and this is no exception. It was and always will be a bad solution for idiots who cannot / will not read subtitles. It's never a good alternative. At least the Region 1 DVD has a French soundtrack. But then EVERYONE will speak French. The Region 2 version I watched didn't. Bizarrely, only Spanish and Italian were included!

The story itself concerns the German attempts to prepare to hold Paris in the face of overwhelming odds. As well as the advancing Allied armies, the Germans also have to deal with the various resistance groups that are building up in the City itself. The films portrayal of the Nationalist and Communist groups however is confused and disjointed. It looks like a deliberate attempt though to make it look like the resistance groups were essentially fighting for the same things...which historically was not correct. I also suspect the producers wished to tone down the Communist element, who were the new "bad guys" in the 1960's, so that the film would do better box office in the States. There are hints are the inter-group rivalry, but the viewer is left unclear why they exist. Either way, it is far more defined in the book that the film is based on.

Most of the performances are good and it's a joy to spot so many faces on the screen. Gert Frobe (ahem...Goldfinger) deserves special mention as General von Choltitz, the Paris Garrison commander. He has the dubious decision of choosing to carry out the Fuhrer's order to "destroy Paris" or to leave the City intact. Historically, of course, it would have been an absolute impossibility for the German's to destroy the city given the parameters involved, but the choice to obey or disobey still remained.

There are a number of cameos too from US stars, such as Anthony Perkins and Glenn Ford, but this really is a film about the French during the end of the Paris occupation.

As a whole it isn't a bad film, but isn't really a good film either. I felt somewhat empty at the end and disappointed too with some un-necessary bog standard "evil German" representations. In the main though, the German's are presented as human. The French are presented as nothing but heroic and noble, which is to be expected, I suppose, but I would have liked to have seen more of the inter- group rivalry that took place in reality. The "good guy/bad guy" polemic just doesn't cut it for a cynical post-Vietnam/Iraq audience anymore.

I can't really recommend "Is Paris Burning" in this format to be honest, but if you don't mind dubbing, sometimes confusing plot structure and a near 3 hour running time, then you may enjoy it. A version with the original French, German and English soundtrack would have been a winner, but the producers missed the boat on that one.

Bottom line is rent instead of buy.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Its few flaws do not distract from its excellence, May 5, 2005
By 
C. B Collins Jr. (Atlanta, GA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Is Paris Burning? (DVD)
The DVD "Is Paris Burning?" deserves 10 stars. It is compelling history come alive. With an amazing musical score, an all star cast, and a fascinating story, this film is a total winner.

Whereas I enjoyed watching some of the great actors of American and France, such as Orson Wells, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Charles Boyer, Leslie Caron, Alain Delon, Kirk Douglas, Glenn Ford, Anthony Perkins, Robert Stack, Simone Signoret, Yves Montand, and Gert Froebe; the city of Paris entrapped in the march of history is the real star of this film.

Gert Froebe does a super job as General von Choltitz, the Nazi Commander of Paris. He is given direct orders from Adolf Hitler to burn Paris upon recieving an order directly from Hitler himself. The Swedish consul Nordling, played by Orson Wells, tries to convince him not to destroy Paris due to its significance to Western Civilization. In the end General von Choltitz decides not to destroy Paris primarily because it serves no rational purpose. The General is a military strategist and he recognizes that Germany has lost the war and the burning of Paris makes no strategic sense. Thus a sane man disobeys an insane man and the city is saved.

The film is almost documentary in style, shot in black and white with historic films integrated into the rest of movie. Francis Ford Coppola and Gore Vidal's screenplay uses characters to tell the story but the story does not center upon any one character. The city of Paris remains the star. This is the way of history. We are all swept up in historic time and whereas we feel we are the star of our own lives, we are cameo bit-part players in the drama of history. Coppola and Vidal captured this philosophical point perfectly.

The photography of Paris throughout the film is super. Extremely unique views of every famous landmark allow you to see Paris higlighted in a way that no other city has been highlighted in a film. The film was actually shot in front of all these major landmarks and they never looked better.

There are many wonder compelling scenes that stick in your mind after seeing this film. The Gestapo double cross of French students; the journey of one lone Resistance fighter across German lines to reach General Patton and General Bradley; and then the wonderful scenes of the liberation of the city. The scenes where the French and Americans invade the city, are joined by the French resistance as street fighters, fight the last of the German army resistance, and try to control the outpouring Parisian crowds, are wonderful.

This film is superb, you will not be disappointed.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent cast and great film, January 2, 2001
This review is from: Is Paris Burning? [VHS] (VHS Tape)
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.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My all time fav war film, June 7, 2005
This review is from: Is Paris Burning? (DVD)
It took me many years of looking but I finally found the film I had been looking for since I first saw it in 1976.

I read the book a few years ago, and the film goes well with it. It is a film that always leaves a tear in the eye as the city of Paris together with its many political factions rise up against their nazi rulers in August 1944.

Filmed in black and white and cleverly interlinked with original film footage, this film is made even better by a fantastic musical score which I always sing to my self everytime I visit Paris.

The all star French cast were excellent, but I found the sympathetic portrayal of the german soldier and his officers a refreshing change from the goose stepping fanatics we see in many other World war 2 war films.

It was interesting to see major american stars in minor roles, and i think anyone watching the film would have known just what was going to happen to Anthony Perkin's character,..."I wonder what it's like to die..."

A film well worth waiting all these years to watch again.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Paris saved, September 13, 2005
By 
History guy (Evington, va United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Is Paris Burning? (DVD)
This is a great depiction of the end of Germany in Paris. The movie is filmed from the Allied and the German positions in saving the City of Lights, the treasures, buildings and structures from the warped mentality of Adolph Hitler. It demonstrates that even in the German High Command, there were officers who had the courage to make a counter decision to save the beauty and history of this famous old city. The movie is a great narative of what could have happened, and did in many other places. The film contains actual footage of the Allied entry, adding to the reality of the retaking of Paris, confirming that war is cruel and devastating for everyone.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A city on the edge of destruction, August 19, 2007
This review is from: Is Paris Burning? (DVD)
If the tagline for It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World was `Everyone whose ever been funny is in it,' then Rene Clement's epic could almost lay claim that `Anyone who's ever been French is in it,' assembling Alain Delon, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Charles Boyer, Leslie Caron, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Yves Montand, Simone Signoret, Michel Piccoli, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Claude Rich and others (Paul Crauchet, Bernard Fresson, Michel Lonsdale, Patrick Dewaere and Albert Remy can also be spotted if you look hard enough) in a spectacular retelling of the Liberation of Paris. While the French producers intended a great patriotic celebration of the deliverance of the capitol under the threat of total destruction after Hitler ordered nothing be left of the city but ruins, Paramount, who picked up the bulk of the tab, saw it as another Longest Day and padded out the American roles with largely blink-and-you'll-miss-`em cameos by Kirk Douglas, Glenn Ford, Anthony Perkins and Robert Stack. Of the non-French top-liners it's only Orson Welles as the Swedish consul Nordling, frantically trying to avoid unnecessary bloodshed through negotiation, and Gert Frobe as General Von Choltitz, the general tasked with defending or destroying the city, who play a major role in the film. Their scenes easily the best in the somewhat disjointed picture, never lapsing into simple stereotyping and giving a credible face to history.

To be fair, most of the heavyweight French cast are not much more than slightly larger cameos, with the bulk of the film falling on lesser-billed Bruno Cremer and Peter Vaneck's shoulders, although both characters do bring to light the fact that somewhere along the way the film got somewhat depoliticised from Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre's superb book - both Colonel Rol-Tanguy and Major Gallois/Cocteau were key figures in the communist resistance, though you'd never know it from the film. Although the involvement of communists in the Liberation of the city is briefly acknowledged and the De Gaullist figures often identified as such, the left don't fare so well: ironic considering one of the strengths of the book was in showing the political infighting and jockeying for position between the De Gaullists and the communist resistance, with the armed rising a consequence of each side ignoring the Allies' strategy so that they could claim they led the Liberation in an escalating game of oneupmanship. Collaboration barely gets a mention either: this is predominantly triumphalist in tone, and as such its often very effective, with several sections carrying a real surge of jubilation as the people take their city back. (However, the involvement of black troops and resistance fighters on the French side is very briefly acknowledged.)

Although primarily credited to Gore Vidal and Francis Ford Coppola, the script was the result of several writers - alongside Marcel Moussy and Beate von Molo, Jean Aurenche, Pierre Bost and Claude Brulé also contributed - and there are a few somewhat jarring shifts in style as a result. Despite the political dilution that one suspects was a consequence of getting both the essential co-operation from de Gaulle's government and the equally essential dollars from Paramount, it does a good job of making the constantly shifting strategies and increasingly chaotic events accessible while keeping the momentum up, but as with most spot-the-star WW2 epics, it's the vignettes that stick most firmly in the mind: a German soldier, his uniform still smouldering, staggering away from a blown-up truck only to be ignored by a businessman blithely going to work as if nothing were happening; a female resistance worker delivering instructions for the uprising being offered a lift by an unsuspecting German officer after her bike gets a puncture; French soldiers picking off Germans from an apartment whole the little old lady who lives there excitedly watches while drinking her tea; Jean-Paul Belmondo and Marie Versini crawling across a road with their bikes to avoid snipers while a gay man walking his dog watches, before going on to liberate the seat of government without a shot being fired because the civil servants there habitually do what they're told by anyone in authority; an armoured unit getting a dozen different directions to their destination by Parisians; SS men casually looking through Von Choltitz's papers out of force of habit; and the general suddenly finding himself alone in a restaurant as the bells of Paris ring out for the first time in four years to proclaim the Allies' arrival.

The Americans don't fare as well, all-too obviously being there simply for marquee value (the prominently billed George Chakhiris is in it for less than 30 seconds!), although Anthony Perkins' soldier acting more like a tourist is at least memorable, while most of the German regulars - Gunther Meisner, Karl-Otto Alberty, Wolfgang Preiss, Hannes Messemer - are pretty much stuck in their usual bad/good German roles from every other war movie they ever made (that said, it's a surprise Anton Diffring didn't get an invite as well!). In many ways the two real stars of the film are the city of Paris and Maurice Jarre's excellent score, the film's only real constant factors as the stars come and go and events move forward. For the most part the film avoids the tourist shots with a great use of locations, giving a sense of a place where people actually live and die, while Jarre's score manages to counterpoint a militant piano-led theme for the Nazi Occupation with an increasingly stirring resistance theme that constantly runs underneath it, gradually working its way out of hiding and constantly gaining ascendancy before finally flowering into a vivid and triumphant waltz for the Liberation.

A somewhat ill-fated production - producer Paul Graetz died of a heart attack during filming - it was a huge but much-criticized success in France but a conspicuous box-office failure everywhere else, with Paramount swearing off the epic genre for decades to come and Rene Clement's career never really recovering: his last major film, he wouldn't work again for another three years and only made four more films. Best remembered today for Plein Soleil/Purple Noon, Clement was a logical choice for the film, having had earlier had much success with previous WW2 films La Bataille du Rail, about the French resistance on the railway network, and the Oscar-winning Jeux Interdit/Forbidden Games, and his direction is for the most part superb, be it the control of a chillingly formal tracking shot along a railway platform casually revealing and passing a dead body or the edgy hand-held work during some of the makeshift street fights. Although the decision to film in black and white which would hurt the film so much at the box-office and on television was reputedly forced on the film by the French government's refusal to allow the film to fly red and black Nazi flags over the city (grey and black, however, were permitted), it works to the film's advantage, not only allowing it to incorporate genuine archive footage a little more skilfully than is the norm but also gives it a more verite feel thanks to Marcel Grignon's naturalistic photography. If at times this feels less like the classic it could have been and more like the best film that could be made under the political and financial circumstances, it's still an impressive and occasionally compelling recreation of a unique moment in history that deserves to be at least a little better known and better regarded than it is.

Unfortunately Paramount's DVD is a bit ill-starred itself. Although several behind the scenes documentaries and trailers exist, the fact that the DVD is extras-free is less problematic than the soundtrack. If you choose the English soundtrack, you have some highly variable dubbing of most of the French and German cast (although Frobe is well-dubbed here by Michael Collins, his `voice' from Goldfinger), but if you opt for the French soundtrack you have the equally variable dubbing of the German and American actors (though Georges Aminel does a strikingly good job of dubbing Welles on the French version). Just to add to the confusion, Hitler's dialogue is all in subtitled German, although in all the other scenes the Germans all speak English! Switching between the languages is a solution of sorts, but an irritating one. Still, at least the DVD preserves the widescreen format and the overture and intermission.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is Paris Burning? No, and Never Will!, January 2, 2010
By 
This review is from: Is Paris Burning? (Hardcover)
"Is Paris burning?", this dreadful question was put by Hitler himself to the German commander of Paris and closes the film's 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 (1913-1996) 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 Forbiden Games), but in my opinion this is his best film 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 performance.

The black and white photography, from Marcel Grignon (nominated for the Oscar Award that year), 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 a bonus to the whole movie.

I think a broad audience may enjoy this film.

Reviewed by Max Yofre.
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