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Monday, June 29, 2009

IMAGINARY WITNESS (2004)

Substantial AMC documentary on ‘Hollywood and the Holocaust’ starts off well in trying to show some of the ways Popular culture handled the rising German/Nazi menace pre-Pearl Harbor. But without the proper grounding in the societal & cultural background of the times, many of the points made are meaningless, if not outright misleading. In addition, the unavoidable selective (reductive) nature of these surveys means that generalities are trumpeted as truisms. So, the dramatic strength of THE MORTAL STORM (referenced here) is unanswered by the appalling weepie of the unmentioned ESCAPE (both 1940). Similarly, you’d never know that Ernst Lubitsch’s brilliantly hilarious black comedy TO BE OR NOT TO BE flopped while the formulaic comic nonsense of ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT did just fine (both 1942). And while it’s a treat to see films like Fred Zinnemann’s THE SEARCH/’48 brought into play, the post-WWII era becomes the usual paean to that (supposed) march of progress through George Stevens ‘ THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK/ ‘59; Stanley Kramer ’s JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG/’61*; and Steven Spielberg ’s SCHINDLER’S LIST/’93. Revisionist theories cannot come soon enough.

*Clips from the original tv production look surprisingly good . . . and it’s half the length!

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