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Thursday, March 15, 2007

She's A Nazi George... A NAZI!

Look, Leni Riefenstahl was a Nazi. Ok? End of story. Even if she wasn't an actual Party member, she was completely swept up in the Romantic fervor of the movement and used her considerable talents to promote their objectives. Thus is it noted in this review of the new book, Leni: The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl.

With "Triumph of the Will" (about the Nazi party rally at Nuremberg in 1934) and "Olympiad" (about the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games), Riefenstahl, it's not an exaggeration to say, created almost every significant visual image that we now retain of National Socialism in all its evil pomp.

But the thing we all need to come to terms with is that, yes, Leni was a Nazi... and that's OK.

It's OK for two reasons:
  1. Leni was hot. And as we all know, everyone is willing to forgive just about anything... as long as you're hot enough.
  2. You cannot judge a work of art by the politics of its creator.
Yes, yes, Schickel claims in his review that this idea is "inane..."
Over these later years, she attracted the support of gaga cinephiles, who inanely insisted, as one of them put it, that "politics and art must never be confused." It is biographer Bach's business to demolish that nonsense while also creating an almost novelistically compelling narrative of a life endlessly obfuscated by lies.
Kid Various is speaking as one of those gaga cinephiles, but what rot!

But if you follow Schickel's logic then basically, renting a DVD is a political act. Every trip to Blockbuster becomes an excercise of trying to pass moral judgement on each film's creator and politcal "message." Which basically means that you cannot watch, appreciate or in any way admit the artistic worth of:

Birth of a Nation: Are you kidding? There'd be riots if this film were shown today. D.W. Griffith would have to claim that he was addicted to cough syrup when he made this movie and go to rehab.

Battleship Potemkin
and October (Ten That Shook the World): Glorifying mutiny and street violence in order to bring about a regime that was responsible for even more murder than the Nazis? Oh, Eisenstein is out!

Chinatown: Roman Polanski shtupped a 13 year old girl. How can you possibly argue that Chinatown deserved a Best Picture nomination?

Annie Hall: Dude, the guy married his daughter. Nuff said.

JFK and Nixon: Oliver Stone has been described by some as "our greatest living director." We'd have to describe him as a raving, left wing, paranoid lunatic. Burn those discs!

The list can go on and on. Until you get to the point where you get to the point where your friends won't go to see Ghostbusters III because the creator's don't sufficiently support the plight of migrant farm workers.

Maybe Schickel is claiming some sort of exemption based on the unique experience of the Holocaust but that's a thin reed. Most notably because, as noted above, the Soviet regime killed even more people than the Nazis.

You can only judge a film by its aesthetic qualities. Anything else and you are down a long road.


At Wednesday, April 18, 2007 at 8:47:00 PM EDT, Anonymous luthic said...

wow... that clip was both great and creepy at the same time.
And what you wrote about artist vs. art - I wholeheartedly agree.


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