Friday, April 23, 2010


Leni Riefenstahl, Germany, 1938, bw (9.2*)

This historic documentary shot by the Nazi propaganda machine's chief filmmaker still looks modern today. The idea originally was to show the glory of Germany and document their many Olympic victories in a fine film by their top director, but the politics were taken out when black American Jesse Owens and others stole the thunder, leaving the Germans with little more than this filmed record.

Riefenstahl pioneered a number of techniques that will look more commonplace today. One that stands out here is burying a camera at the starting line of the 100-yard dash to capture a ground-eye view of that race's tension just before the gun. She always manages to interest the eye even when the action isn't so riveting, and is a master of b&w composition and lighting.

Denounced by many for being the film voice for the Nazis, Riefenstahl later apologized for making Triumph of the Will (1935) in particular, about the rise of Hitler and the party, and attempted a normal film career afterwards, but never again approached the artistic achievement of these two documentaries.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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