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Sunday, June 1, 2008

THE SORROW AND THE PITY (1969)

Marcel Ophuls’ much lauded epic documentary on how a small French town lived through the Nazi occupation is cunningly crafted out of WWII documentary footage, period propaganda, plus standard establishing shots and interviews made just twenty-five after the events. Far from being a simple indictment of collaborationists & occupiers or a celebration of the lamentably few resistance fighters or even a mourning wail for the victims, Ophuls tries to understand all the paths taken. He seems mordantly aware that, in Jean Renoir ’s great phrase, "That’s the tragedy of life, everyone has their reasons." Naturally, just like RULES, PITY was initially banned. Deemed excessively truthful by real life bureaucrats: ‘Myths are important in the life of a people. Certain myths must not be destroyed.’ Did this French minister know he was paraphrasing John Ford ’s newspaper editor in THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE?

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