Is Paris Burning? (1966)

Genres - War  |   Sub-Genres - War Epic, Ensemble Film  |   Release Date - Oct 26, 1966 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 173 min.  |   Countries - France, United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Adapting Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre's massive book into a film was probably near-impossible, so it's almost inevitable that Is Paris Burning? ranks as something of a disappointment. It's not a bad movie; it just fails to soar in the way that it clearly is intended to. Although part of the problem is length, it's not unreasonable to expect a film about the liberation of Paris to consume almost three hours. What makes Paris seem too long is the fact that the screenplay meanders too much; there are too many scenes that, even when good, are incidental to the main thrust of the picture. Added to this is the seemingly endless parade of famous faces in cameo roles, which becomes actively distracting. (It doesn't help matters that some of those famous faces -- such as Orson Welles, Kirk Douglas, and Robert Stack -- turn in rather poor performances.) The film is frequently confusing as well; by simplifying parts of this complicated story, the filmmakers have actually muddied things up. Still, there are wonderful moments in Paris, and director René Clément's extensive use of location shooting is impressive and extremely effective. Indeed, the entire physical production adds tremendously to one's enjoyment. If Paris is too disjointed to be totally satisfying, it still provides some individual moments that are rewarding.