Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Marcel Ophüls

Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie (1988), by Marcel Ophüls, is four-and-a-half hours long, delving deep into Barbie's Nazi activities during and after the Second World War, namely, torture, murder, and avoiding justice.
Ophüls (top still) is mordant, skeptical, and occasionally aggressive in his interviews with dozens of people, many of whom come across as liars and apologists (second still: a former SS officer). Barbie's various enablers disclose, with the filmmaker's prodding, how Barbie was useful to US Intelligence and South American dictators after 1945; his supposed anti-Communism was a handy excuse for decades until Bolivia extradited Barbie to France. Barbie's 1987 trial in Lyon gives the film a focal point and adds heft to Ophüls's accumulation of evidence and commentary. The camerawork and occasional choral music add a touch of wit throughout the film. Many of the interviews, for example, are framed with cheery (or creepy) Christmas decorations (second and third stills). Ophüls also uses some unconventional set-ups for visual variety, such as placing an interviewee in profile between the camera and the interviewer (fourth still).

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Documentary Starts Here by Nancy Kalow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.