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 »
This film travels through fantasy and reality as Joris Ivens goes to China to capture the wind. The film reflects the filmmaker's journey from Pour le Mistral (1966), his first film on the ... See full summary »
Ross McElwee sets out to make a documentary about the lingering effects of General Sherman's march of destruction through the South during the Civil War, but is continually sidetracked by ... See full summary »
Ross McElwee Jr.
In the old days it was called hypochrondria, or black melancholia. Now, apparently, it's termed the Asthenic Syndrome. Whatever it is, Nikolai, a teacher of epicly indifferent pupils, has ... See full summary »
Produced at the height of the Vietnam War, Emile de Antonio's Oscar-nominated 1968 documentary chronicles the war's historical roots. With palpable outrage, De Antonio (Point of Order, ... See full summary »
Emile de Antonio
Harry S. Ashmore,
A place: Theresienstadt. A unique place of propaganda which Adolf Eichmann called the "model ghetto", designed to mislead the world and Jewish people regarding its real nature, to be the ... See full summary »
A new man joins the civilian firefighters at a London unit during the Second World War. He meets his fellow firemen and firewomen, manages to enjoy some leisure time with them, and then ... See full summary »
A worker becomes a "man of iron" forged by experience, a son comes to terms with his father, a couple fall in love, a reporter searches for courage, and a nation undergoes historic change. ... See full summary »
This full-length documentary deals with the life, career and trial of Nazi SS officer Klaus Barbie, known as the Butcher of Lyons. Virtually all aspects of his life are covered. His childhood and schooling in Germany; his early military career; his role in the head of intelligence in Lyons; his post-war employment by the US military; his life in Bolivia; his return to Europe; his trial and conviction. Interviewed are friends, enemies, associates, heroes and traitors. Written by
What an infuriating documentary. Actually, as I write this, it has been almost exactly ten months since Al Qaida flew two passenger jets into the World Trade Center. A shocking event which killed more than two thousand innocent people and forever altered the skyline I admired so much as a kid. I wondered at the time if any entrepreneurs would have the chutzpah to somehow turn this appalling thing into a marketing gimmick and concluded that no one would. But I was wrong. Six months after the fact, ads began cropping up for medals made out of the actual steel frames of the collapsed towers. Little by little, other somber commercials appeared. Some brokerage firm now has TV commercials featuring real-life, actual SURVIVORS of the tragic WORLD TRADE CENTER catasrophe! The survivors, their pockets stuffed full of cash, face the camera and tell us of their experiences, ending with the conclusion that the best way to fight terrorism is to go right on working and to invest with Salomon Smith Barney or whomever.
I'm afraid "Hotel Terminus" generates the same feeling, a mixture of anger and disgust. The deportation, imprisonment, and murder of Jews and other minorities is far too horrifying an historical fact to serve as a vehicle for such an on-screen display of self righteousness. Ophuls did a superb job in "The Sorrow and the Pity," mainly by letting the participants and the newsreels speak for themselves about a situation filled with ambiguities. And how eloquent those sources were! Here, we get way too much of Marcel Ophuls telling us what we're supposed to be thinking and feeling, and about a situation in which good and evil were relatively clear cut.
It isn't that his self display fails to be engaging. He's a good performer. Searching for an unwilling interviewee, he wanders through the guy's garden patch, lifting cabbage leaves and asking, "Are you under here?" And he does a splendid reenactment of a telephone call to another prospective interviewee, playing both parts. Those participant who agreed to be interviewed do a pretty good job of hanging themselves, by the way. One of them comes up with something like, "Oh, yes, Barbie wasn't a bad fellow. He loved his dog." (No kidding.) It would have been fine if Ophuls had left it at that, although a viewer might understandably wonder how many snippets of conversation had been edited out, and what they consisted of. Weren't there any good guys at all? Can an entire population be so stupid and unfeeling? And Ophuls ridicules on camera those witnesses were were unwilling to speak to him about the carryings on that they clearly feel guilty about, or at least ashamed of, because, as they frequently argue, it all happened so long ago. What does Ophuls expect of them? That they should "come forward" like guests on Oprah Winfrey? If they could ablate their memories as easily as Ophuls can edit his film, they would surely do it.
One scene is especially irritating. On camera Ophuls visits a house or hotel that Barbi presumably once lived in. The proprietor emerges and begins to speak to Ophuls. The only language he knows is French. (Ophuls is equally good in French, German, and English.) As Ophuls begins to throw him some change-ups, though, the proprietor begins to back off, saying he'd rather not talk anymore. Ophuls then begins shouting accusations at the guy -- in ENGLISH. The guy is backing dumbly away, with occasional protests, while Ophuls screams things like, "The reason you don't want to talk is that you KNOW he lived in your house," and so on. Well -- this isn't an interview. This is Marcel Ophuls playing Yaweh for the rolling cameras, for the English-speaking audience.
It will be a sad day for the entrepreneurs when all of the participants and witnesses to these events have grown old and died. There will be no one left alive to humiliate and to blame. We'll need to start all over again, with only the historical record providing us with a guidebook about what not to do next.
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