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Leni: The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 13, 2007

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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (March 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375404007
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375404009
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,297,271 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hitler's favorite filmmaker prettified her own story almost as much as she glorified the ugly reality of the Third Reich, which makes her a natural for biographers with a taste for dish and debunkery. Bach (Marlene Dietrich: Life and Legend) excavates, somewhat more fluently, many of the low points covered in Jürgen Trimborn's recent Leni Riefenstahl: A Life: her courting of Nazi sponsorship and admiration for Hitler, her witnessing—later denied—of a massacre of Polish Jews, her deployment of Gypsy slave laborers as extras (many of them died at Auschwitz) and her postwar efforts, through lawsuits and misleading memoirs, to downplay or suppress these facts. Bach also fleshes out more of Riefenstahl's private life, with details about a parade of lovers (one of them, an American decathlonist, apparently tore off Riefenstahl's blouse and kissed her breasts in front of 100,000 spectators at the 1936 Berlin Olympics) and her attempts to get her hands on the inheritance of her niece and nephew. He intersperses perceptive commentary on her masterful propaganda films, while noting that her art "lulls and deceives" instead of awakening and illuminating. The result is a lively, incisive look at a compelling and somewhat appalling figure who demonstrated that beauty isn't always truth. Photos. (Mar. 19)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Riefenstahl revered "what was beautiful, strong, and healthy," but her greatest achievements, the paradigmatic films Triumph of the Will and Olympia were made to glorify Hitler and the Third Reich. In his penetrating and superbly well-written biography, Bach ponders the difficult questions raised by Riefenstahl's many-chaptered life (she was 101 when she died in 2003). Is there a moral dimension to art? Is devotion to making art an excuse for moral failings? As Bach expertly elucidates the opportunistic Riefenstahl's exploits as a dancer, actress, filmmaker, Nazi insider, African adventurer, photographer, and deep-sea diver, he takes measure, as no one else has, of her ruthless ambition, idealized aesthetics, and extreme egocentricity. Dexterously fitting together newly recovered puzzle pieces, Bach presents evidence suggesting that Riefenstahl was part Jewish; explicates her close relationships with Hitler, Goebbels, and Albert Speer; documents her use of "film slaves" borrowed from "holding pens for the Holocaust"; and analyzes her "self-righteous entitlement" and personal revisionist history. Possessed of phenomenal vitality and physical courage, if lacking in compassion and integrity, Riefenstahl loved fairy tales, and, as Bach so perceptively and artistically reveals, she succeeded in living one, however insidious. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Fascinating book that really impressed me.
I've made it to the end, but felt like quitting all the way -- it is only my interest in, and the quality of, Steven Bach's text that kept me going.
This biography of Leni Riefenstahl by Steven Bach is compelling reading.
Steven A. Peterson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Ronald H. Clark VINE VOICE on May 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of two current biographies out on Leni Riefenstahl (1902-2003), who remains somewhat radioactive give her close association with Hitler and other top Nazi leaders during the 1930's and 1940's. The author is a former motion picture executive turned professor, who previously has written an excellent biography of Leni's contemporary and rival, Marlene Dietrich. Leni is generally seen as being not a particularly pleasant person, who manifested an extreme degree of ego and far less concern about truth in the historical record. This book, while it does not seek to mitigate those allegations, and does in fact add some damaging new information, really the author is much more interested in charting the contours of Leni's life, the times she lived in, and those with whom she interacted than passing moral judgments.

One of the strengths of the author is his ability to concisely set the stage at various points in Leni's life. His brief discussion of effervescent Berlin during the 1920's particularly is rich in insight and helps enormously in explaining the environment out of which Leni emerged. Similarly skillful is his discussion of the top Nazi party leadership (particularly Goebbels as propaganda guru) and political developments in Germany in the 1930's--just enough so that the reader is prepared to understand Leni's activities during this period. Bach is at his best, though, in focusing upon Leni as the film maker, whether it is her 1930's films such as "Triumph of the Will" and her Olympic films, or her later films (including the controversial "Tiefland")and African documentaries. He also casts an experienced eye on her many photographic book projects, especially those relating to Africa and coral reefs.
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Format: Hardcover
This biography of Leni Riefenstahl by Steven Bach is compelling reading. It tells the tale of someone with great talent--but also someone who could never come honestly to grips with her role in Nazi Germany. Someone who, in the end, was a mediocre actress and dancer and a very talented filmmaker and photographer. But even with her successes, many felt that with Riefenstahl, she put as much focus on herself as on her works. And, with some of her works, critics noted that they were technically wonderful, but not with much soul or heart.

Her early years featured a strong, almost overbearing father; she early learned how to try to "get around him." Her mother Bertha (whom some suspected of being Jewish) was supportive of her, whereas her father wanted nothing to do with Leni's visions for her future as a dancer. Injury derailed her from dance, and she began acting, with her most prominent genre being the so-called Alpine films. While she saw herself as a terrific actress, outside of some exceptions, she appears to have been rather ordinary. But, as throughout her life, her self-image was far more positive; she never had the ability to be self-critical. One virtue that emerged early in her films was physical courage (page 43), "the only personal quality she possessed that colleagues and even enemies could later praise without reservation."

Through a series of events, she ended up in a position to direct a film featuring Adolf Hitler at the 1933 Nazi party congress, "Victory of Faith." It was not as well done as her later, much better known films, but it provided her experience in developing techniques, coming to understand camera work, and so on.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Tom Holzel on March 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Steve Bach has done a remarkable job of painting a complex, life-like and believable portrait of Leni Riefenstahl, the (in)famous Nazi-era film director. He does so both by pointing out her many shortcomings, (not the least of which is a rapacious sucking-up to Hitler and his cronies), and also by admiring her ground-breaking cinematic genius. This is an unusual feat for a critic who is politically liberal --a rare case of someone able to separate his reflexive distaste for the many moral and ideological compromises she made to fuel her rise from being a plumber's daughter, to becoming one of the most creative film directors of the 20th Century.

Riefenstahl lived two separate lives: her life as a second-rate actress which segued into becoming a sensational film director and naturalist photographer; and her life of spending the last 60 years of her career defending her casting-couch activities of the first 20. Active to the very end, she died in 2003, age 101--a camera still in her hand.

How then to judge Ms Riefenstahl; how then to judge the book? As we never seem to learn, great talent does not necessarily come from great people. Why are we so regularly surprised to learn that geniuses are often terribly flawed in other aspects of their character. (This has made a "neutral" portrayal of Hitler impossible to depict. No one has been able to separate the evil of the man from his political genius--a genius that turned a prostate nation into a world power almost overnight.) Amazon.com was so repelled by Riefenstahl that for months they resolutely refuse to post more than two luke-warm reviews, in spite of attempts by many readers to add to the list.
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