1930-1939


The film's title has become divorced from its origins (the book, by Erich Maria Remarque) to mean something rather mundane - "nothing to report". In fact, of course, the film's story set during the First World War is anything but quiet. So, what does it mean?

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A light satire on modern life's reliance on the development of technology; a comedy reminiscent of Chaplin and Keaton and a precursor to Jacques Tati; or a paean to the simple life of being with a buddy?

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A hypnotic performance by the star makes this a worthy entry in 1001 Movies.

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A comedy surely, with its opening scene of an old man lying down among harvested fruit, declaring he is going to die, while peasant friends smile and make jokes about whether he will find himself in heaven or hell. Then he dies.

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A couple trying to come together are thwarted by the Catholic Church, social conventions, and the machinations of their own surreal subconscious. In the end, it was all the fault of Christ or De Sade.

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What is it about clowns? They're not funny (which seems to be the point) but they're not fascinating figures of pathos either. There are at least three in this film, two of which get to say nothing, but keeping sidling into or across the scene with no obvious purpose except to make some obscure visual point about the third, Emil Jannings' doomed school teacher.

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Fred and Ginge may be the centre of attention, but it's the supporting players that give this terpsichorean soufflé its flavour.

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Bela Lugosi's not dead.

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