Wooden Crosses seems little different conceptually and in execution than the other two major early sound WWI pictures, namely Milestone's All Quiet on the Western Front and Pabst's Westfront 1918. Both those films fail to reconcile the interpersonal conflicts with the grander conflicts of the war. Some succeed where the others fail. All of them however demonstrate various different, but all astonishing (to my eyes) recreations of WWI battle. What's so astonishing, and different, about Wooden Crosses is the way that Bernard manages to create such a frighteningly realistic and poignant construction of battle, and the fears, doubts, and anxieties that it creates. Sure, he does this with lavish pyrotechnics, but he also does it via montage, cutting between the soldiers and their plight, and the battle itself in all its jarring discord. The effect is one that I find sublime, and one that strongly evokes a sense of style that I don't get from other "Tradition of Quality" filmmakers of the early 30s (like say, Pagnol, who for all intents and purposes was a styleless filmmaker who relied on bland exposition and "superior" scripts and performances).For all of your bluster about Bernard here, you haven't drawn attention to one concrete element of any of these films that could convince me they were "good," never mind "great." You repeat that they've got "poetry" and basically look nice. What's so complex about what Bernard is saying about humanity, or war, or camaraderie in Wooden Crosses? That it's "bad and ghostly," and that "grim irony may befall these characters"? -- the grimmest irony being that the ironic formulation of: "wooden crosses = the soldiers themselves" gets super-ironized by the fact that the conceptions of the characters on the scenaristic level, and the way Bernard directs the actors, transforms them very much into "wooden things."
This is not to say that Wooden Crosses is a perfect film. It's not, but much in the same way the aforementioned 30s WWI films are not perfect. They fail in their exposition of characters and interpersonal conflict. That this is so consistent to these three films makes me think that this problem is one inherent in the approach to the material during this period, and not indicative of this supposed symptom of "Tradition of Quality." Such criticism strikes me as Cahiers auteurism run amok. That said, you raise some salient criticisms of Bernard and his films, but I personally feel that you're approaching it from a skewed, distorted, and biased perspective.
How did you get this from his comment? It was very clearly a joke.Are you seriously suggesting Bernard's treatment of actors somehow pre-figures Bresson's?