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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating story of complicity - politics around Barbie, May 6, 2001
This review is from: Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie [VHS] (VHS Tape)
The career of Klaus Barbie, the Butcher of Lyon is a fascinating one, and Ophuls' 4-hour documentary does a justice. Not that Barbie himself was anything extraordinary, but Nazi system of hate has put thugs like Barbie in position to inflict so much damage (it is estimated more than 10,000 Jews and Resistants were killed or deported during Barbie's reign of terror), which could be achieved only through French collaboration. Then U.S. and Vatican shipped Barbie out of reach of justice to Bolivia, where Barbie continued to use his expertise for the dictatorship. Ophul's documentary covers all these entagled webs of complicity and moral ambiguities (which delayed justice for 40 years) in an appropriate mood of cynicsm.
However, I read some reviewers criticizing the documentary for digression and slowness, especially in the first part of the movie, which I think is unfair for this movie was made for French viwers as well as for American viewers. And Barbie the war criminal also happens to be French Oswald, and the question of who betrayed Jean Moulin, the head of French Resistance is the French JFK - with eqaully, in fact more outragious conspiracy theories. The only differency is that these conspiracy theories made headlines and primetime TV coverages and raised serious political controversies. About the quality of the movie, it will be suffice to say that this documentary is one of very few fascinating and thought-provoking movies there are, stranger even than fiction. But let me give few background information since the movie may be confusing unless one is familiar with Jean Moulin affair as the French audience. (One of few faults with the movie is that the uninformed might come away with impression that some of discussed conspiracy theories are true - such as theory that Jean Moulin is a crypto-communist .)
The reason Barbie became infamous and sought after by the French after the war (but Americans shielded him) is that he tortured to death Jean Moulin, who is credited to have unified the French Resitance. Togeher with de Gaulle, his efforts are even credited with making sure that France, upon liberation, had legal government and avoided both Allied occupation and civil wars. In any case, Moulin was the highest-ranking member of French Resitance ever captured by the Nazis, and while it was clear that his arrest was due to treason within the ranks of Resistance, the question of who betrayed him remained one of the most discussed mysteries in the French history of WWII. Among the theories are 1) Rene Hardy, a major Resitance leader betrayed Moulin after cracking under pressure from Gestapo 2)Benouville, Hardy's superior and a royalist, betrayed Moulin because Moulin was thought to be too sympathetic to the communists 3)Moulin was a crypto-communist (according to Henri Frenay, the superior of Benouville) 4)The communists betrayed Moulin because Moulin, the former cryto-communist turned gaullist 5)there was no treason, arrest was due to security leaks (Hardy's version), and so on. In any case, elimination of Moulin had profound impact in the subsequent direction of Resitance and post-war politics. The official version is that there was definitely a treason, but nobody knows who (in the court, Hardy was tried and acquitted twice), yet mentioned versions are from time to time put forward by left and right-wings to discredit the other. The image of France unified in resitance is sullied every time Moulin's arrest comes up, and hence reluctancy to bring Barbie to trial. Barbie thus becomes the ghost of bitter rivalies in Resitance. (Howerver, I think Ophuls debunks Restiance myth too much. He once said that there was no unity at all in French resistance, which is rather an extreme view to say the least.)
Even greater movie (in fact, historically significant) than Hotel Terminus is Ophuls' earlier 4-hour documentary "The Sorrow and Pity", which is recently released on DVD. Higly recommended.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 27, 2009 11:27:21 AM PST
It is an excellent film. However people who think that they are writing reviews should at least check their spelling. These public forums allow anything and everything to be posted for virtually any reason. They should be subjected to some sort of review process or better just feature reviews from legitimate print sources already published.
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