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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There Are Documentaries: There ARE Documentaries, February 22, 2004
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This review is from: Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie [VHS] (VHS Tape)
This film is a great masterpiece. Despite the nominal subject, Klaus Barbie, the "Butcher of Lyons" during the occupation of France by Germany during World War II, it delves deeply into a much broader subject. Master filmmaker Marcel Ophüls, so unpretentiously and with a mastery of English, German, and French, takes us back in time to the days when the Gestapo Headquarters in Paris was at the train station--Hotel Terminus--still standing with its moniker in the 1980s. He follows through interviews with famed French Nazi-hunters the Klarsfelds, to Barbie's bodyguard in South America, to Germans associated with the Germanization of Bolivia...around the globe, the story of the lowly Barbie from childhood to trial as a War Criminal in France in the 1980s is told masterfully--even with an occasional note of sardonic humor. Could it be otherwise?
This is a spellbinding four hour, twenty eight minute documentary, which won the Oscar for Best Documentary film in 1988. Yes, it rings as true 16 years later as it did then, perhaps even more so! It is as timeless a documentary as Leni Riefenstahls "Triumph of the Will" documenting the aspirations of the Third Reich itself. Interlaced with Barbies story, Ophüls hangs out in pool halls with "everyday" Frenchmen, hears their opinions, visits Barbie's childhood home where the high school he attended has no institutional memory of him, to the mountains of Bolivia where even the uniforms of the President and his minions are reminiscent of Hugo Boss's designs of uniforms for the Third Reich...
This is a fascinating trip through the Western World of the 20th century that, in my opinion stands the test of time as one of the best on the personalities of the Third Reich. The legal problems facing Jackson at Nuremberg reappear in the 1980s as Barbie is finally, after many years, extradited back to France although his whereabouts are known. France struggles to deal with its own complicity, the failings of its own legal system...and in the days to come, we will see this drama re-emerge in the post-Iraq War II.
Barbie re-emerges as a brutal man, though ill in late life, and the witnesses bring him to life. The Jewish children, hidden in the countryside, whom he deported to Auschwitz are heard from once again. A deported Jew is but vaguely remembered by an apartment-house neighbor. The stench of Evil remains, even in the prevarications of common bureaucrats.
Although not rated, this film is not appropriate for pre-teens, and should be seen by teenagers and young adults only when the context can be discussed with informed adults.
Had Marcel Ophüls produced no other work, and this one obviously took years, it would have been enough.
Although repeated many times, those who do not learn from history seem bound to repeat it. Globally, we're not doing very well, as it would seem so aptly demonstrated here.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 19, 2010 12:20:00 PM PDT
First says:
This film WILL finally be released on DVD this fall by Icarus Films.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2010 6:39:11 PM PDT
It IS about time, yes?

Posted on Sep 17, 2010 1:06:30 PM PDT
First says:
it will be released on 10/26 and it's now listed on Amazon for pre-orders.

Posted on Sep 17, 2010 5:18:56 PM PDT
I received the notice of the DVD release--it is about time! To the 12 of 13 who found my review helpful, thanks for reading it!.
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