Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, earned respect from critics and swoons from groupies when he took the stage in a revival of "Equus" two years ago. (He's standing shirtless next to Richard Griffiths, left.) But he's been a wily performer ever since his starring role in the 1999 BBC "David Copperfield." And in the best Potter movies he sounds unexpected depths of rage, remorse and euphoria. In the last two Potter pictures, in particular, he's been gaining in heroic stature while wearing his authority lightly and mastering a moral sort of guile.
Radcliffe will be giving himself a grittier challenge when he takes on the role of Paul Baumer, the German infantryman in World War I at the center of "All Quiet on the Western Front," based on Erich Maria Remarque's novel. And the filmmakers will be testing themselves against one of the most honored and memorable films of all time: Lewis Milestone's 1930 Academy Award-winning version, with its penultimate image of a soldier, just before armistice, extending out of a bunker to touch a butterfly -- and attracting enemy sniper fire. (The great cinematographer Karl Freund cooked that bit up with director Milestone.)
In the meantime, moviegoers (and readers!) should purchase the new edition of Humphrey Cobb's more acerbic, electrifying World War I novel, "Paths of Glory." David Simon wrote the introduction. In this Sunday A&E interview, he pays homage to Cobb's book and Stanley Kubrick's 1957 film adaptation for their enormous influence on the portrayal of corrupt, inertia-ridden institutions in "The Wire." I'll try to write more on Cobb, Kubrick and Simon in the fall, when the Maryland Film Festival will present Kubrick's film where it should be seen, on the big screen, with Simon introducing the event (details have yet to be nailed down).
Penguin Classics' editorial director Elda Rotor tells me that one of her recent big sellers was Ernst Junger's World War I memoir, "Storm of Steel." Do you think this mini-surge of 20th-century horror-of-war literature reflects contemporary American reactions to a near-decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan?