8 February 2013 | dbdumonteil
They don't make movies like this one any more ;this is par excellence the prototype of the militarist jingoistic movie.Released in 1938 - the IMDb date is not accurate- when the political situation was very worrying and when the great directors were producing pessimistic works ("Quai Des Brumes" "La Grande Illusion" ) "Trois De Saint-Cyr was perhaps some kind of antidote , a propaganda movie which showed the strength of the French army ;a revealing scene shows an officer teaching strategy to the students :the danger comes from the east (Germany) but we've won many battles there from the Middle-Ages onward and the Maginot Line is mentioned (with hindsight ,it was wishful thinking!)
The film consists of two parts ;the first one is the most entertaining,nay even interesting :it is a depiction of the prestigious school (the French "West Point")through the destiny of three cadets :the major (the young man who comes first in his year ),the "system" (the one who comes last) and a frail boy ,from a wealthy family ;of course the "major" comes from a poor background ,with a meritorious mom who bled herself dry to secure her boy's future.The three cadets are "the three musketeers" or ,to be precise,the three Bengal lancers ,for they are sent to Syria ,an "exotic" destination.Full of finer feelings ,the Saint-Cyriens form a big family ,they all stand together when one of them is in trouble (relief fund);and there is ,in spite of hazing,a chivalrous spirit ,close to that of the fair knights of the Middle -Ages ,going as far as self-sacrifice (which is praised by the officer in the last sequence,which recalls Hathaway's "lives of a Bengal lancer".
The second part takes place in Syria (but was actually filmed in Tunisia ) and shows the colonialist mentality "the people there are big children,but fortunately we are here ,and see those planes in the sky,it's France which keeps an eye upon you and protects you, weak fearful natives" ;but ,and it's much to the credit of the writers ,the interest in desert oil is not hidden behind noble thoughts .The villains ,that is to say the rebels, are called ,like in Duvivier's "La Bandera" and Christian -Jaque's "Un De La Legion " ,"Les Salopards" =the B......Ds" and ,of course ,their motivations are passed over in silence ,but it is not hard to guess....This second segment is would be epic but the direction is not up to scratch .
Paulin,the director,would continue in 1939 in the same vein with "Le Chemin De L'Honneur" in which a bad boy replaces his twin brother in the Legion and redeems himself.