Paris brûle-t-il? (Is Paris Burning ) (1966)
Director: René Clément.
Starring: Jean-Paul Belmondo (Pierrelot - Yvon Morandat), Charles Boyer (Docteur Monod), Leslie Caron (Françoise Labé), Jean-Pierre Cassel (Lieutenant Henri Karcher), George Chakiris (G.I. devant Notre Dame/GI in Tank), Bruno Cremer (Colonel Rol Tanguy), Claude Dauphin (Colonel Lebel), Alain Delon (Jacques Chaban-Delmas), Kirk Douglas (Général Patton/Gen. George S. Patton Jr.), Pierre Dux (Cerat - Alexandre Parodi), Glenn Ford (Général Bradley/Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley), Gert Fröbe (Général Von Choltitz/General Dietrich von Choltitz), Daniel Gélin (Yves Bayet), Georges Géret (Le boulanger/Baker), Hannes Messemer (Général Jodl/General Jodl).
freedom fighters of Paris and the Paris liberation of 1944
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
Good movie. August 7, 1944. Rastenburg, East Prussia. Hitler's headquarters. General Choltitz, coming directly from Normandy, arrives at Hitler's headquarters. He sees the remains of the building destroyed in the failed attempted assassination of Hitler three weeks earlier.
Hitler tells Choltitz that he will be promoted to full general and put in charge of Paris. He instructs Choltitz to be absolutely brutal with the citizens of Paris and if they resist, kill them.
Gen. Choltitz arrives in Paris. He tells his new staff that Paris is now a fortress city and that the Hotel Meurice will be his headquarters.
Chabon is De Gaulle's military delegate in Paris. His instructions are that he must avoid an uprising in Paris until the time is ripe, for the Allies will bypass Paris. Colonel Rol, however, pushes for an immediate uprising. The final decision, however, has to be made by the full National Council of the Resistance.
Gen. Choltitz informs his staff that to fulfill Hitler's orders he needs a plan to destroy the entire city. Captain von Ebernach and his demolition squad are called in to place explosives all over the city, including in and under famous Paris landmarks.
Chabon plans to free Bernard Labé from the Germans because he has the influence to discourage Col. Rol from pushing his plans for an uprising. The Germans plan to transfer Labé to the prison in Fresnes (and from there to Buchenwald concentration camp). Chabon tells the wife of Labé, Françoise, to meet with Mr. Nordling, the Consul General of Sweden, to get his help in exchanging German prisoners for her husband. Nordling tells Françoise that there are some 2,980 political prisoners in Fresnes, but goes ahead with the long-shot attempt to free Labé. Nordling is actually successful, but a little too late. Labé was now in the hands of the S.S. and the Commandant refuses to let him leave. In the attempt to free Labé, the Germans kill the Frenchman.
The Germans kill 30 young French citizens who were leaders in the resistance by luring them into a trap with the promise of ammunition.
Col. Rol calls for an uprising with the headline "Paris Fights Back!" on a flyer. Chabon's crew decides to strike before Col. Rol's people. They attack the prefecture of police and commandeer the building. They then raise the French flag from the roof of the building. Col. Rol sees the French flag and tells his associate to call his men to action.
The French Resistance fighters start firing on the German soldiers passing in the streets. One German soldier gets away and heads to the Hotel Meurice to tell Headquarters of the resistance. They send three tanks to the prefecture of police and the tanks start blasting away at the building.
Nordling negotiates a cease-fire with Gen. Choltitz, but the National Council of the Resistance defeats the idea by a margin of one vote. The French Resistance sends Major Gallois out to establish contact with the oncoming Allied troops.
Field Marshall Model comes to see Gen. Choltitz and tells him: "You must restore order." Choltitz then gives the order to draw up a plan for the bombing of Paris.
Major Gallois makes contact with American Gen. Patton, who tells him that he would like to help him but the plan is to shorten the war by heading straight to the Rhine. This doesn't discourage Gallois who gets in to see French Gen. LeClerc. LeClerc asks Gallois to make his pitch to the Allies. Gallois says that the German plan is to destroy Paris. If the Allies fail to save Paris from ruin, it will be a long time before the French would be able to forgive the Allied nations. The Allies liked the plea so much that they approve the plan to proceed to Paris.
American Gen. Omar Bradley arrives and gives his approval of the plan. The French tanks and troops are to proceed directly to Paris. Now it's a race between the German forces of destruction and the Allied forces of salvation. The French forces arrive to the great glee of the Parisians. Not rang for four and a half years, the church bells start ringing.
Hitler has someone call Gen Choltitz to ask why Paris has not been destroyed. The problem for Hitler is that Gen. Choltitz does not want to destroy Paris. He knows Germany is going to lose the war, so what's the point of the ruination of Paris.
The celebration of the liberation of Paris is a little premature. The Germans are still very much in Paris and fire on the Allies and the crowds greeting them. So now it becomes house to house combat. The Allied goal is to reach Hotel Meurice to force Gen. Choltitz to surrender.
The Allies finally reach Hotel Meurice. French Lt. Karcher is the first to reach the German general. Karcher asks the general if he will surrender. Gen Choltitz agrees to surrender. As the general is led out of the hotel, a voice on the telephone in the general's office shouts "Is Paris burning?" "Is Paris burning?"
Who knew so much politics wwere involved in the liberation of Paris? There was division and disagreements in the French Resistance and disagreements between the French Resistance and French troops on the one hand and the non-French Allied command on the other. It took a good deal of talking to convince the Allies to head straight to Paris rather than head to the Rhine.
There were a lot of Hollywood and French stars in the movie, which is distracting on the one hand and interesting on the other. Too bad the good feelings of that era between the French and the Americans are a thing of the past.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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