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A young man with an exceedingly weak grasp on the divide between fiction and reality is thrown into the maelstrom of World War I in this essential and very rare classic by Georges Franju.
An essential and very rare classic. Jean Cocteau co-wrote the script, based on his own novel, for Franju's unforgettable film about a sixteen-year-old poet, Thomas (Fabrice Rouleau), who cannot tell the difference between fiction and reality. Impersonating an officer in World War I, Thomas heads into the maelstrom of battle, which he treats as a "glorious theatrical spectacle." His patroness is the Princesse de Bormes (the coolly beautiful Emmanuelle Riva), a Polish aristocrat who refuses to abandon her Paris digs despite the encroaching chaos. Franju's hallucinatory depiction of Thomas' dream-walk through the horrors of war is pure poetry: its imagery of ruin, including the oft-quoted sequence of a horse trying to escape the flames consuming its mane, has a spectral eeriness that you cannot shake off. "The last images of the film are perhaps the most hauntingly beautiful, yet sinister, tragic, evocations of the surreal 'landscapes of war' ever created on the cinema screen" (Films and Filming); "compulsive, and utterly absorbing" (Time Out London).