Sunday, October 24, 2010


Gillo Pontecorvo, Italy, 1959, bw (8.4*)
A long overlooked holocaust story is now available on dvd. Director Pontecorvo is best known for the ultra-realistic war docudrama The Battle of Algiers, which is a must see for fans of both war films and Italian cinema. Before making that classic, he gave us a smaller war film, yet a universal story no doubt enacted over and over in World War II.

Susan Strasbourg gives a strong and realistic portrayal of a 14-year old Jewish girl thrown into a concentration camp with her parents. She quickly realizes that children and the elderly are being executed, so she assumes the identity of an adult criminal in order to survive. She becomes a favorite of the SS officers due to her youth, and they eventually make her a kapó, prisoners who are quasi-officers above the other prisoners, who basically work for the Nazis and against their own brothers in order to get more food and other benefits.

This is not a pleasant tale, but a heroic and realistic one. Those who enjoyed Schindler's List and Stalag-17 should also like Kapó, it's that good, and belongs on the short list of excellent holocaust and prison films, and films with strong women.


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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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