Leni Riefenstahl (1902-2003)

Leni Riefenstahl (1902-2003)

I have a deep appreciation for the film innovations of Leni Riefenstahl over her long career. To be clear I am not saying I admire her affiliation with Nazi Germany. I am not saying that I feel her propaganda work during the 1930’s & 1940’s is something that inspires me or I admire. I do however recognize the brilliance of the work she did during that time from a strictly artistic point-of-view and as an effective form of propaganda for a morally reprehensible regime that unfortunately existed in a dark period of human history. Whether you believe her claims that she was unaware of the Nazi war crimes they were committing or not I leave up to your own conscience. For what it is worth she won over fifty libel cases against people accusing her of knowing of the Nazi crimes. She would later go onto say of meeting Hitler, “It was the biggest catastrophe of my life. Until the day I die people will keep saying, ‘Leni is a Nazi’, and I’ll keep saying, ‘But what did she do?”

Her most infamous and historically significant film was “Triumph of the Will” (Named by Hitler) of the 1934 Nazi Party rally at Nuremberg.  According to reports she originally did not wish to make the film, but Hitler convinced her on the condition that she not be required to make further films for the party.  She did however make a few more films for the Nazi party such as an eighteen minute follow up film at the 1935 party rally focusing on the army which felt they were not fairly represented in the first film.  She went on to claim to never have intended to make a pro-Nazi propaganda film and was disgusted it was used that way.  Whether that is true or not “Triumph of the Will” has been universally recognized as a masterful, innovative example of documentary filmmaking.  Years later the Economist (magazine) wrote that Triumph of the Will “sealed her reputation as the greatest female filmmaker of the 20th century.”  The film scholar Mark Cousins went on to claim, “Next to Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock, Leni Riefenstahl was the most technically talented Western film maker of her era”.

In 1936 with the Olympics approaching she traveled to Greece to film the location of the original Olympics at Olympia.  This footage became part of the film “Olympia” a highly successful film.  It was noted for its technical as well as aesthetic achievements.  Her use of tracking shots as well as slow motion of the athletes has been seen as a major influence on modern sports photography.  She is noted to have filmed footage of all races at the Olympics, including the American Jesse Owens.  Upon its release in the United States the American philanthropist and former Olympic athlete (1912 Olympics) Avery Brundage said it was, “The greatest Olympic film ever made.”

During the invasion of Poland she worked as a war correspondent.  On September 12th, 1939 thirty civilians were executed and there are claims she attempted to intervene, but a German soldier held her at gunpoint and threatened to shoot her if she continued.  Whether that is true or not, close-up photos of a distraught Riefenstahl still exist from that day.  She would later claim she did not realize the civilians were Jews.  Nevertheless a month later she filmed Hitler’s victory parade in Warsaw.  It was the last Nazi related film of her career.

After the war she was held in American and French run detention camps and prisons from 1945-1948.  She is reported to have reacted with horror and tears when shown photos of the concentration camps.  She was tried four times but never found guilty of anything but being a “fellow traveler” who was sympathetic to the Nazis.  Through the 1950’s and 1960’s she attempted many times (15 by her count) to make films but they were always met with resistance, public protests and sharp criticism.

In the 1960’s her focus made the transition to still photography.  She became enamored with Africa, inspired by Hemingway’s book “The Green Hills of Afruca,” and the photography of George Rodger.  She traveled many times to Sudan to photograph the Nuba tribes.  She lived with them sporadically learning their culture so she could photograph them more easily.  She was eventually granted Sudanese citizenship for her services to the country, becoming the first foreigner to have a Sudanese passport.  Her two books of the tribes, “The Last of the Nuba,” and “The People of Kau,” published in the 1970’s were both international bestsellers.  She photographed the 1972 Olympic games in Munich.  Later she photographer Mick Jagger, Siegfried and Roy, and was a friend of Andy Warhol.  She was a guest of honor at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.

At age 72 she became interested in underwater photography.  She lied about her age (by 20 years) and became certified to scuba dive.  In 1978 she published a book of coral gardens and then in 1990 her book “Wonder Under Water.”  On her 100th birthday she released her final film, “Underwater Impressions” an idealized documentary of life in the oceans.  It was her first film in twenty-five years.  At age 100 she was still photographing marine life and gained distinction as the world’s oldest scuba diver.  She continued to be active in her late life being a member of Greenpeace for eight years.   In 2000 she was in a helicopter crash while attempting to determine the fate of her Nuba friends during the Sudanese civil war.  On Auguest 22nd, 2003 she celebrated her 101st birthday and married her longtime friend and cameraman Horst Kettner, who was forty years her junior.  On September 8th she died from cancer.

As the daily telegraph wrote upon her death :

“[Leni Riefenstahl] was perhaps the most talented female cinema director of the 20th century; her celebration of Nazi Germany in film ensured that she was certainly the most infamous…Critics would later decry her fascination with the athletes’ [Olympia] physiques as fascistic; but in truth her interest was born not of racist ends but of the delight she, as a former dancer, took in the human form.”

“Opinions will be divided between those who see her as a young, talented and ambitious woman caught up in the tide of events which she did not fully understand, and those who believe her to be a cold and opportunist propagandist and a Nazi by association.”

Ken Burns NYT Interview

The NYT has an interesting interview with documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, Would he make his classic series, “The Civil War” (still one of my favorite t.v. documentary of all time) differently in light of the present Zeitgeist? Was Shelby Foote a Confederate sympathizer? And why was Burns so changed by the early death of his mother?

#Documentaries #KenBurns

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/03/15/magazine/ken-burns-interview.html?action=click&module=Editors%20Picks&pgtype=Homepage

Daily Life in Winter

“The winter is so beautiful, and yet it can be so hard sometimes that it makes me cry happy-tears thinking about the summer. This winter has been extra hard. Crazy amounts of snow and extreme cold weather for over 3 weeks. It takes a lot of energy to keep up the normal life. But it also gives a lot of energy with all the beauty that the winter brings. It’s a love-hate relationship.

In this video I share glimpses of what I’ve been up to for the past month. Both the struggles, but also all the beautiful moments. I also share some behind the scenes of my previous video, when I went on a road trip to the very North of Sweden to record some footage.”

~ Jonna Jinton

Tokyo Ghoul

Tokyo Ghoul is set in an alternate reality where ghouls, creatures that look like normal people but can only survive by eating human flesh, live among the human population in secrecy, hiding their true nature in order to evade pursuit from the authorities. Ghouls have powers including enhanced strength and regenerative abilities – a regular ghoul produces 4–7 times more kinetic energy in their muscles than a normal human; they also have several times the RC cells, a cell that flows like blood and can become solid instantly. A ghoul’s skin is resistant to ordinary piercing weapons, and it has at least one special predatory organ called a kagune, which it can manifest and use as a weapon during combat. Another distinctive trait of ghouls is that when they are excited or hungry, the color of their sclera in both eyes turns black and their irises red. This mutation is known as kakugan (“red eye”).

The story follows Ken Kaneki, a student who barely survives a deadly encounter with Rize Kamishiro, his date who reveals herself as a ghoul and tries to eat him. He is taken to the hospital in critical condition. After recovering, Kaneki discovers that he underwent a surgery that transformed him into a half-ghoul. This was accomplished because some of Rize’s organs were transferred into his body, and now, like normal ghouls, he must consume human flesh to survive. Ghouls who run a coffee shop called “Anteiku” take him in and teach him to deal with his new life as a half-ghoul. Some of his daily struggles include fitting into the ghoul society, as well as keeping his identity hidden from his human companions, especially from his best friend, Hideyoshi Nagachika.

Sources: Tokyo Ghoul Manga, Wikipedia

First Commercial Film

On this day in 1895, the world’s first commercial movie screening takes place at the Grand Cafe in Paris. The film was made by Louis and Auguste Lumiere, two French brothers who developed a camera-projector called the Cinematographe.

The Lumiere brothers unveiled their invention to the public in March 1895 with a brief film showing workers leaving the Lumiere factory. On December 28, the entrepreneurial siblings screened a series of short scenes from everyday French life and charged admission for the first time.

Amélie

One person can change your life forever…

Plot:

A painfully shy waitress working at a tiny Paris cafe, Amelie makes a surprising discovery and sees her life drastically changed for the better. From then on, Amelie dedicates herself to helping others find happiness in the most delightfully unexpected ways. But will she have the courage to do for herself what she has done for others?

Rating: R (for sexual content)

Genre: Comedy, Romance, Foreign

Directed By: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Written By: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Guillaume Laurant

Country: France

Language: French (Subtitled in English)

Release Date: 4 November 2001 in USA

Worldwide Gross: $173,924,742 (Worldwide)

Runtime: 122 minutes

Main Character:

Amélie Poulain —> Audrey Tautou

French actress Audrey Tautou hit the international spotlight in 2001 as the star of the whimsical Parisian romance “Amélie” (2001), which went on to become the top-grossing French-language film ever released in the United States. With her wide eyes and shy, winsome smile, the brunette gamine instantly earned comparisons to Audrey Hepburn, and like Hepburn, she successfully built a film career alternating between light romantic comedies and teary dramas. Many of Tautou’s popular French films did not make it to U.S. theaters, however following the art house success of “Amélie” and the World War I-set romantic drama “A Very Long Engagement” (2004), Tautou answered the call of Hollywood, co-starring opposite Tom Hanks in the blockbuster thriller “The Da Vinci Code” (2006). Tautou’s experience in an overblown, critically reviled hit failed to draw her to American filmmaking, so she promptly returned to the French fold where a starring role as design icon Coco Chanel in “Coco Before Chanel” (2009) proved that the actress had a whole career of increasingly mature roles ahead of her once her quirky, youthful charm had run its course.