Cinema: A Grainy War

The Guns of August, showing shrewd fidelity to its source, begins with film clips that vividly reproduce the opening of Barbara Tuchman's witty and colorful history. The time is May 1910, and a matchless assemblage of European royalty has gathered in London for the funeral of King Edward VII. Striding among the plumes, epaulets and gold braid are Edward's nephew, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, King Albert of Belgium and Austria's ill-fated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, three players already swept up in the genesis of a tragedy to be known as World War I.

After an...

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