Friday, March 20, 2015

Partisan Triple Feature

While I dislike Nazism greatly, Nazis do make wonderful villains. So much so that we continue to make films with faux Nazis as villains, because, well, their days are over. So, long ago I had come up with my "Super Depressing Nazi Triple Feature", comprised of three wonderful films that made a bit of a timeline:
  1. The Damned involves itself with the centralization of power under Hitler and the infighting among various fascist groups.
  2. Cabaret is about the changes in Germany as the war went on, and the effect on the populace.
  3. The Night Porter is a beautiful and disturbing film about Nazis in hiding after the war.
All three are fantastic, and well worth watching, but I thought "there must be an opposite set of films, right?" So, I set out to find three films about partisans, and hoped to get the same flow as the first triple feature. The problem was, finding an opposite for The Night Porter. I think I finally have it:
  1. Casablanca is nearly perfect and covers the time when the Nazis invaded Paris through the middle of the war. The escape of a resistance leader is the plot motivator.
  2. Flame & Citron is set in the middle/end of the war and focuses on two assassins who kill Danish collaborators.
  3. Marathon Man
It took me a while to find Marathon Man. I had certainly heard of it, but it was never streaming. Now it appears to be on Netflix, so I gave it a shot. I am glad I did.

Superficially, it is a complicated story, but the complications it presents are red herrings. Dustin Hoffman is a PhD History candidate who is doing his dissertation on the McCarthy Era. We soon learn that his father was implicated by McCarthy, which caused his suicide. Roy Scheider plays Hoffman's brother, who is a successful businessman. Or is he?

The plot turns to the search for a Nazi war criminal who must come to the United States clandestinely, and Hoffman becomes involved. It is at times a rather brutal film, but not gratuitously so. The twistiness of the plot is enjoyable, but fortunately there are no "hey, wait a minute" moments that I remember. Everything is setup nicely. Sure there are a few tactical moments that I quesion, but these are not sufficient to ruin the film.

All of these films are great to watch. Casablanca is easily one of the greatest movies ever, and you should watch it. Flame & Citron is also a beautiful, albeit violent, compelling film, though it is in Danish; the only subtitled entry in my list. Cabaret is a thing of beauty, and not some happy-go-lucky romp. The Night Porter is a beautiful, tragic film, and Dirk Bogarde's portrayal is masterful. He is simultaneously able to make you despise and pity him. This is easily the hardest of the group to watch, at times, but it is so worth it. The Damned is fantastic, but is a bit like a soap opera; think Falcon Crest meets the Third Reich. Wonderful, but it can be a slog if you are not in the mood.

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