The 317th Platoon

French soldiers retreat through the jungles of Vietnam following the disastrous Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Pierre Schoendoerffer, who wrote and directed this 1965 screen adaptation of his own novel, served in the French army as a cinematographer, was taken prisoner by the Viet Minh, and later became a noted photojournalist before branching out into movies. Shot in Cambodia in sober black and white, his authentic portrayal of guerrilla warfare and French soldiers prone to drugs and pillaging would have come as a shock to U.S. viewers a full three years before Hollywood could muster a response to the Vietnamese conflict with its old-fashioned John Wayne adventure The Green Berets. Schoendoerffer went on to direct several more films about the debacle in French Indochina, including the Oscar-winning documentary The Anderson Platoon (1967). In French with subtitles.