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« Danger: Blogger in the Family | Main | Oscar Pre-Show: 1957 »

February 23, 2007

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I was incredibly inspired by the rare opportunity to view two of her dramatic films, "Tiefland" and the hauntingly beautiful "The Blue Light" at the Honolulu Academy of Arts Theatre (maybe twenty years ago). She starred in, directed, wrote, produced, and edited both these films, and also served as cinematographer on "Tiefland."

Fascinating stuff. I knew OF Riefenstahl, but of her works I'd only seen bits of "Triumph of the Will" and most of "Olympia" (Bless The History Channel and its "All Hitler, All the Time" phases).

Now I want to see more of her work. The propaganda machine of Nazi Germany fascinates me more every year. The little corporal with the bad hair and Goebbels (whose pictures always reminded me of Christopher Lee's creepy evil twin) have often struck me as history's least likely national icons, even in context. The power to mesmerize, polarize, AND energize that many people in that short a time is as scary as it is fascinating.

I know I can find Triumph of the Will and Olympia on DVD, now I have to see if I can get ahold of her other stuff.

Hi,Danny --

Once again, you're reaching me where I live.

Like you, I was fascinated by Triumph of the Will and Olympia, and was more than a bit ashamed at how much I enjoyed them. Incidentally, it's worth noting the generous dash of homoeroticism in the former.

But again, and somewhat to my surprise, Germany has come to play a role in my life.
I identify strongly as a Jew, and for years I avoided visiting that country when I was in Europe. But, in the late '70s, I had to go there on business and became fascinated. I knew some German and could communicate.

In the years that followed,I visited Germany at least a dozen times. At first, I admit that when I met anyone in my age group, I did fish around to see what they'd been doing dureing the Nazi period.

I found that a significant number of Germans today are philosemitic, which I find almost as troubling as the reverse. I once exchanged my apartment in New York (where I then lived) for one in Berlin for two months. The owner of the Berlin house had been in the Luftwaffe during the war. He had an extensive library with many books on Jewish themes. I can cite other examples.

I have Other Peoples Lives on reserve with Netflix. I look forward to seeing it. I spent time in East Germany on several occasions in the bad old days of The Wall.

Back to German films for a moment. We shouldn't forget the Weimar period with such gems as Metropolis, Maedchen in Uniform, Caligari, etc.

Finally, I apologize for taking over your space. I just couldn't resist.

Bob C.

I believe I read somwhere that it's because of Olympia and other propoganda films that the Cannes Film Festival was born.

Karen, how lucky to see those rare films in a theatre. I was at a film festival in Hollywood in 1997 on the day that they were planning to honor Leni Riefenstahl for her work in film. This caused such a huge controversy that they had to cancel the event. But news of that was quickly overshadowed by another event that day: the death of Princess Diana.

Right, Bob, I left out so many great German films from earlier time periods. Definitely a country with a great cinematic past despite its other "issues."

Most of the films I mentioned (even "Hitlerjunge Quex") are available to watch online but I didn't include the links because they are found on creepy neo-Nazi sites. Yuck. There was another hideous propaganda film put out in 1940 that I saw once called "The Eternal Jew" ("Der Erwige Jude") that played all over occupied Europe and tried to compare the cockroach-like dirty Jews with the so-called pure Aryans. Ironically, this film provides some of the only archive footage from the shtetls of Eastern Europe as Nazi cameramen were dispatched there for this film shortly before the towns were emptied and the Jews shipped off to ghettos and concentration camps.


Hi, Danny --

It's me again.

I've never seen The Eternal Jew although I've read about it.

But, the best unvarnished film footage of an East European shtetl I know of is in the Molly Picon Yiddish film classic "Yidl with a Fidl." Although the indoor scenes were filmed in a studio, the outdoor scenes were shot in a ungussied-up shtetl.

A DVD is available from Netflix.

Bob C.

Danny, I'm glad to know you enjoyed "The Lives of Others." It's already on our film society's short list for our spring/summer season. I hope to see it when we go up to London next weekend for the British Federation of Film Societies' annual awards, at the British Film Institute, where we'll also pre-screen about 10-12 other independent and foreign films.

Last year our society won two second-place awards -- Best Programming and Best Film Notes, and it's hinted that we've done even better this year; not a bad showing out of 117 entrants, eh? I shall certainly feel like Danny Miller, hobnobbing among celebrities, especially if I shake the hand of this year's presenter, director Nicolas Roeg (though I would've preferred to have met Anthony Minghella last year!).

Great post, as usual. Do tell us when you're offered a contract on writing a big fat book on film history.

Dear Danny;
Thanks for this posting! I've been hoping to see "The Lives of Others" on a big screen and now that it won the foreign oscar, perhaps I will get my chance.
When I was in college I had many opportunities to see films by Fassbinder, Herzog etc. as well as *The Kabinet of Dr. Caligari,* *Nosferatu* and others from that era. I remember a great German Expressionist film fest at USC that was part of an program called the "German Semester." We met Jurek Becker there before the wall came down.
With *Downfall* and now *The Lives of Others* perhaps the German cinema is entering another fertile period.

i wonder why so many ppl fancy the short-timed film era of nazigermany..

the german cinema before and after the
powerplay of that stupid austrian hitler
and his 'sponsors' rothschild, rockefeller
(all traitors of their own heritage)
and all the other moneysacks, has a lot
more to share but boring propaganda..

they all look/sound the same to me..
no matter if soviet, argentinian, american,
hell.. even the israelian propaganda flicks.
furthermore.. still so many ppl also
only watch newer german movies that..
yeah.. of course.. have ww2 in the main
plot.. :( sad sad..

Hi, I am a german student and got to your site by accident.
I am glad that you like "Das Leben der Anderen". I like it too.

But I have something to say about Leni Riefenstahl. When you watch her photographical work after WWII (The Nuba - can be found on amazon), you can see that she never got rid of her racialist and fascistic views. I do not believe her sorrow, even after the interviews in the 90's. As a native speaker I can hear, that she was never feeling sorrow for herself. She always seemed to be "remote-controlled" when she was trying to wind her way through the times when she got to answer uncomfortable question. For me, she didn't do a good job and could have stayed in her house at the wonderful Starnberger See for the rest of her life.

I just wanted to mention my point of view on that issue - but now I have got to go on reading your wonderful stories.

Auf Wiedersehen und viele Grüße!

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