Characters II

film 4 of 5

The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Reifenstahl

Draft Review by Dean Duncan May 21, 2015

“Let’s call it ‘The Wonderful Life of Leni Riefenstahl’…no, let’s call it ‘The Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl’ …no…” apart from the stinky title this is quite good, most of all because the subject turns out to be worth the three hours, both for the times her life illuminates, and for her life itself; I was glad for the Fanck material, the interesting flare and blow ups as she wearily or spiritedly talked about “Triumph” and her activities around that time, the beautiful picture quality for films I’ve only ever seen lousy, the unfinished gypsy film information, which I’d never heard of, and which was very intriguing; the Nuba and undersea stuff is inevitably less compelling, partly for the strained attempts to establish connections and continuity, the uncovering the artifice (filming while they’re filming), apart when they catch the subject getting feisty (entrapment?) stuff seemed superfluous, the reunion with the “Olympia” cameramen was most contrived, though the “Olympia” section was excellent; ultimately it comes down to this most amazingly preserved 90 year old, who’s so intriguing and somehow tragic, it comes down to a superficial question: did she or didn’t she, was she or wasn’t she?–the answer’s probably a waffling yes, but her poignantly pertinent references to Pudovkin and Eisenstein under Stalin (what’s an artist supposed to do when a psychotic’s in charge?) have to temper our judgments, and show us that superficial questions are superceded by the systems and circumstances that make the questions come up in the first place; and also, it’s not like she would have had a chance to direct in Hollywood