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The Sorrow and the Pity (1969)

Le chagrin et la pitié (original title)
From 1940 to 1944, France's Vichy government collaborated with Nazi Germany. Marcel Ophüls mixes archival footage with 1969 interviews of a German officer and of collaborators and ... See full summary »

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 6 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Georges Bidault ...
Matthäus Bleibinger ...
Himself - Wehrmacht Soldier in the Auvergne (as Mathaus Bleibinger)
Charles Braun
Maurice Buckmaster ...
Himself - Former Head of the British Underground
Emile Coulaudon ...
Himself - Former Head of the Auvergne Maquis
Emmanuel d'Astier de la Vigerie ...
Himself - Founder of the Liberation Movement
René de Chambrun ...
Himself - International Lawyer (as Count René de Chambrun)
Christian de la Mazière ...
Himself - Aristocratic Former Nazi
Darquier de Pellepoix ...
Himself - Handshake with Heydrich (archive footage)
Jacques Doriot ...
Himself - Head of the French Popular Party, 1942 (archive footage)
R. Du Jonchay ...
Himself - Head of the Resistance Movement (as Colonel R. du Jonchay)
Jacques Duclos ...
Himself - Former Secretary of the Clandestine Communist Party
...
(as Lord Avon)
Sgt. Evans
Marcel Fouche-Degliame ...
Himself - Director of the Combat Movement (as Marcel Degliame-Fouche)
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Storyline

From 1940 to 1944, France's Vichy government collaborated with Nazi Germany. Marcel Ophüls mixes archival footage with 1969 interviews of a German officer and of collaborators and resistance fighters from Clermont-Ferrand. They comment on the nature, details and reasons for the collaboration, from anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and fear of Bolsheviks, to simple caution. Part one, "The Collapse," includes an extended interview with Pierre Mendès-France, jailed for anti-Vichy action and later France's Prime Minister. At the heart of part two, "The Choice," is an interview with Christian de la Mazière, one of 7,000 French youth to fight on the eastern front wearing German uniforms. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The Most Important Fact Film Ever Made See more »


Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

25 March 1972 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Sorrow and the Pity  »

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Technical Specs

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider. See more »

Quotes

Dr. Claude Levy: France is the only government in all Europe whose government collaborated. Others signed an armistice or surrendered, but France was the only country to have collaborated and voted laws which were even more racist than the Nuremberg laws, as the French racist criteria were even more demanding than the German racist criteria. It's not something to be proud of.
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Connections

Referenced in Get a Life: Married (1991) See more »

Soundtracks

to 'Triumph over France'"
Written by Grigory Kaputnikov (pseudo-name Siegfried Karl Schlegelmeyer)
(heard in footage when Hitler cames to Paris)
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User Reviews

 
The Greatest Documentary Film Ever Made
31 January 2002 | by See all my reviews

The Sorrow and the Pity is not only the greatest documentary film ever made, but also one of the greatest films of any kind. A straightforward description of the film seems to promise limitless boredom: more than four hours of talking-head interviews in at least three different languages, blended with old wartime footage and occasional clips from the likes of Maurice Chevalier. But Ophüls' mastery of film technique allows him to create a thinking-person's masterpiece from these seemingly mundane parts. He interviews people who experienced the Occupation (in the late 60s, when the film was being made, many of them were still alive). Some are famous "big names" of history, such as Pierre Mendes-France, imprisoned during the war, Premier of France later in life, and Sir Anthony Eden, a British prime minister in the mid-50s. But even these men are noteworthy more for their actions as "regular" folks than as statesmen, and the true "stars" of the movie are the various "common men" who tell their personal stories. The Grave brothers, for instance, local farmers who fought in the Resistance, are as far as one might get from Jean-Paul Belmondo, but their pleasure with life and their remembrances of friends and foes during the Occupation establish them as real life heroes.

Thirty years down the road, Ophüls' methodology is as interesting as the history he tells. Merely claiming that Ophüls had an argument seems to work against the surface of his film, for he disguises his point of view, his argument, behind the reminiscing of his interview subjects. The film is a classic of humanist culture in large part because Ophüls, in giving the people the chance to say their piece, apparently puts his faith in those people (and in the audience that watches them) to impart "truth." However, the filmmaker is much cannier than this; he is not artless. The editing of the various perspectives in the movie allows the viewer to form conclusions of their own that don't always match those of the people who are doing the talking in the film. In fact, The Sorrow and the Pity makes great demands on the viewer, not just because of the film's length: Ophüls assumes you are processing the information he's providing, and so the film gets better as it progresses, with the viewer's attention being rewarded in direct correlation with the effort you put in.

And Ophüls is himself the primary interviewer in the film; you don't often actually see him, but he's there, asking the questions, leading on his subjects and his audience, only partly hidden (visually and philosophically) from view. The movie might look easy; there are none of the showy flourishes of a Kubrick or Stone here (or of Max Ophüls, for that matter). But the viewer is advised to remember that Ophüls' guiding hand is always in the background, constructing the film's version of the truth just as the characters do in their stories.


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