The Sorrow and the Pity | Chicago Reader

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A 1971 documentary by Marcel Ophuls about the German occupation of France. Ophuls devotes the first part to the fall of France, the second part to everyday life during the occupation. In both parts he focuses on the city of Clermont-Ferrand, not far from Vichy, and the heart of the film consists of relaxed interviews with survivors—French as well as German, resistance fighters as well as collaborationists—and newsreels and propaganda films from the period. Ophuls refuses to rely on facile divisions between heroes and villains, despite his implicit emphasis throughout on ethical issues. Near the beginning and end of the film he employs the unsettling technique of freezing the frame while the subject's voice continues, which suggests that even the “frozen” past still has fresh things to tell us. This isn't an aesthetic statement to the same degree as Shoah; it's valuable mainly as a brilliant assemblage of documents and testimonies. In English and subtitled French and German. 260 min.

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