Saturday, May 26, 2007

Leni Riefenstahl

Leni Riefenstahl's new biography got lots of press coverage recently. The latest new york review of books has an essay by Ian Buruma about her life and work.

Among many other reviews the best was the one by Clive James in New York Times Book Review. He also makes this interesting point:

Susan Sontag later made a serious mistake in arguing that “Olympia” was entirely steeped in fascist worship of the beautiful body. But it’s nature that worships the beautiful body. Fascism is natural. That’s what’s wrong with it: it’s nothing else.

The Susan Sontag essay that he is referring to is also available online. And so is an interesting exchange with Adrienne Rich about feminism and fascism.

I have also been curious about the seven hour German film Hitler, A Film From Germany by Hans Jurgen Syberberg ever since I read her essay. (Available to subscribers only here.) It is very strange very few people seem to have seen it and is not even available on DVD and doesn't even seem to a part of any film canon. Just reading the essay, it seems peppered with hyperbole (not unusual, she was very fond of making grand statements in her essays.) She says things like "Syberberg is the first film director since Godard who really matters" and this:

The film tries to say everything. Syberberg belongs to the race of creators like Wagner, Artaud, CĂ©line, the late Joyce, whose work annihilates other work. All are artists of endless speaking, endless melody—a voice that goes on and on. (Beckett would belong to this race too were it not for some inhibitory force—sanity? elegance? good manners? less energy? deeper despair?) Syberberg's unprecedented ambition in Hitler, A Film from Germany is on another scale than anything one has seen on film. It is work that demands a special kind of attention and partisanship; and invites being reflected upon, reseen. The more one recognizes of its stylistic references and lore, the more the film vibrates. Syberberg's film belongs in the category of noble master-pieces which ask for fealty and can compel it. After seeing Hitler, A Film from Germany, there is Syberberg's film—and then there are the other films one admires. (Not too many these days, alas.) As was said ruefully of Wagner, he spoils our tolerance for the others.

No comments: