Regional friendo: “Edward Berger‘s All Quiet on the Western Front popped on Netflix two days ago. I’m wondering what your reaction is.

“I watched it last night. Very brutal but exquisitely well made. But what really interested me was the material that was inserted that was not in the book:

“One, the armistice negotiations, showing the French need for vengeance, which would show up in the disastrous Versailles treaty that sowed the seeds for WW2.

“Two, German militarism and nationalism in the form of the obstinate general who decides to mount an offensive just before the armistice goes into effect.

“And three, Paul Baumer (Felix Kammerer) dying just minutes before the armistice. In the book he dies in October, weeks before the end of the war. But having him die on Nov. 11 was, I think, a good move, making the futility of this most futile of wars even more damning and personal.

“A very, very good film. I’m wondering if it will make the final five for the foreign language Oscar.”

HE to regional friendo: “I actually saw it yesterday afternoon. I’d been told that seeing it on a big screen was essential, so my son Dylan and I saw it at the IFC Center. The theatre was the size of a modest living room, if that, and the screen was maybe 80 inches wide. I felt infuriated, rooked.

“I was thinking the same thing about the punish-the-Germans element in the Versailles Treaty, and how this set the stage for German fascism and World War II.  Horror begets horror.

“But apart from the fact that Germany has finally made its own version of Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 novel, and despite it feeling bracingly authentic and horrific and having been vigorously produced and Paths of Glory-ed to an nth degree, we’ve all seen these ‘war is hell’ meets ‘lambs to the slaughter’ films before. Many times before.

“I respect and admire AQOTWF for what it is and what it’s worth.  But in our current realm this kind of large-sprawling-canvas, chaos-and-brutality-of-war film can only sink in so far. And 147 minutes felt too long. 120 or 125 would have sufficed.

“Haunting, brutally beautiful images start to finish. But what was up with the family of foxes at the beginning? Why didn’t Berger show us dead foxes near the end?

And that farmer’s kid shooting Kat (Albrecht Schuch) over stolen eggs and an attempted theft of a goose? It would have been better if the kid and Kat had shot each other. I wanted that kid dead.

“They should have changed one thing.  When the bald German general (Devid Striesow) orders his exhausted, shell-shocked ghost troops to go back into battle one last time before the 11 am armistice, the troops should have revolted and fragged him. They should stormed his stronghold and beaten that fucker to death with their rifle butts (like the Russian general who’s killed by the troops in Doctor Zhivago).  That would been profoundly satisfying.

“When Remarque’s book was published in ‘29 and Lewis Milestone’s film version appeared in ‘30, it was fresh impressionism and a horrifying carnage. But 90 years later and after many such films have covered similar ground (two previous film versions, 65 years after Paths of Glory, and only three years after Sam Mendes’ 1917) it almost feels like an afterthought. A jarring and penetrating one, but recycled material all the same.

“Should it be Oscar-nommed for a Best Int’l Feature Oscar?  Yes, it should be.”