Category Archives: Film

“THE PRICE OF PLEASURE”— Porn for Profit


te price of pleasure


Porn for Profit

Amos Lassen

Pornography has come of age in the United States. It is now one of the most visible and profitable sectors of the cultural industries in this country. The estimate is that  the pornography industry’s annual revenue has reached $13 billion. At the same time, the content of pornography has become more aggressive, more overtly sexist and racist. This documentary features the voices of consumers, critics, and pornography producers and performers. We learn how pleasure and pain, commerce and power, and liberty and responsibility come together and become part of our sexual identities and relationships.

It seems to me that the film attempts to castigate and stigmatize both pornography and the porn industry. It does this by looking at the way it exploits and focusing on the ill effects of porn. The movie tries to turn the concept of the porn star into that of a low life individual who exploits him/herself and makes a living from that. But like other businesses, the porn industry is indeed exploitive. Included are

interviews with militant feminists and psychologists who tend to distort the truth, and we see that the film really doesn’t want to open up the floor for everyone and allow two sides of the discussion and issue. Rather it completely attacks America and American values for being so blatantly obsessed with sexuality. It never really tries to attack the roots of this obsession that can tend to involve our own sense of cynicism, curiosity, and absolute sexual awakening. The film explains that the injection of porn in our world is a statement about our desensitizing. However, in reality, it is statement about us accepting sexual practices for entertainment, comedy, and or enlightenment.

The porn industry has moved far from where it once was and this film seems to want to say that it is a way to get children to perform and it shows computer images of naked children having sex with adults (who are computer animated). There is what is called legitimate pornography in the world today as well as amateur and child pornography but these are exceptions. This is never explained. Nor is the fact that pornography is not a gateway to child pornography nor has it been proven to be ever explained.

The film was made direct-to-video film that was made in 2008 and intended, obviously, as a means of stimulating conversations in college classes on sociology, sex, and gender. The questions raised during the course of the narrative seem to be answered quickly and superficially. In a Diane Sawyer clip we learn that the industry makes $13 billion a year. The head of the Free Speech Coalition, the porn industry’s lobbyist group formed in 1991, says on camera that the lawmakers he approaches are usually apprehensive at first. But “when you explain to them the size and scope of the business”, they tend to change their minds. Those who have money have power, and those who have power can exert influence on legislators, just as the Free Speech Coalition has done so far.

“The Price of Pleasure” has a curiously voyeuristic feel to it and there doesn’t seem to be enough research and revelation here to make it anything more. I think many of us would like to know how the porn industry that had once been considered as seedy, become part of the cultural and economic mainstream?” We understand that it is all about money. On the Internet, where there exists an estimated 420 million pages of porn online, is where young people now get their first exposure to erotic images in many cases.

“The Price of Pleasure” really doesn’t really go too into the idea of pornography as something that might be traced to a base and basic instinct. We get two male teens talking about porn and three females talking about it, and that’s pretty much the extent of it. I recently heard that Time Warner and CBS are just two of the media giants that make a huge profit off of pornography every year s we see that major corporations play a part in the porn industry. This film needs more data and m more interviews with whistleblowers. This certainly isn’t the result of investigative reporting. It is, rather, a sociological overview that seems intended as a conversation starter.

The film is filled with clips and talking heads— TV clips, movie clips, Internet Web site clips, porn clips, and interviews with young people on camera. It is interesting that the picture quality of a completely nude young woman auditioning for a porn role is almost as sharp as HD, while interviews with two young women talking about the effect that porn had on their development are grainy and the picture is poor.

There is a wealth of extras:

Norm Chomsky on Pornography

Porn Performers on The Business

Generational Divide: 3 Generations of Porn Stars Speak Out

 Donkey Punch featurette

Extended Interviews with Experts Pornography as Sex Education

The film could have been so much more effective if it had covered more ground.

“ONCE UPON A TIME VERONICA”— A New Drama from Brazil

once a time veronica“ONCE UPON A TIME VERONICA”

A New Drama from Brazil

Amos Lassen

 “Once Upon A Time Veronica” (“Era uma vez eu, Veronica”),  is a sensual character study of a young woman facing emotional and professional crossroads. Veronica (Hermila Guedes) has newly graduated from fresh medical school and faces a critical period of her life. There are decisions to me made and doubts to be faced both about her career and about her life. Her father is ill and her sex life in a mess and filled with chaos. This is what we might call a backwards fairy tale. We learn about Veronica as she navigates adventures, desires and misfortunes.

 Set in Recife, Brazil, Veronica struggles to find balance in her life. She lives with her father who is suffering from a terminal illness and her job as a doctor puts her near others who are dying. She is unable to become part of a permanent relationship and this really bothers her. Veronica does not know what she wants out of life and she often sees herself as a patient who is in need of care. She unloads all of her feelings into a tape recorder. We see her as a depressed woman. She is existentially bored.


Veronica’s story is one that takes place during her first year as a doctor, dealing with patients that either won’t take her seriously or describe vague headache symptoms. She is not achieving her goals in life because she is unable to determine what they are.  She responds with sarcasm to those who give her love and is indifferent to the man she sleeps with. As she records her feelings on tape, we sense her feelings of displacement and apathy almost as if she is a caged animal. The theme of displacement here is powerful and by the time we reach the end of the film, Veronica has bought a car and a house hoer her father and herself. She takes a job in a private hospital where she will be dealing with patients who are affluent for the most part. Perhaps Veronica has lost herself and in doing so, she is no longer displaced. We do not know if she is really happy or if depression will come back on her—we have experienced her journey as she slowly examined her life and her feelings.

The director, Marcelo Gomes, gives us a film that is tactile and experiential and it has a great deal to say about how we feel when our expectations do not match reality. The film  opens at Laemmle Theaters in LA on November 28, 2014.


theres no place like utopia

“There’s No Place Like Utopia”

Across America

Amos Lassen

In “The Wizard of Oz”, Dorothy followed the yellow brick road because she believed that when she reached the end, a wizard would make her dreams come true. She discovered however that the wizard had no power. Here was Dorothy looking for utopia and no one could show it to her.

Let’s look at what Utopia means: Utopia (Greek: No Place) is an imaginary, perfect society, where everyone is happy. In Utopia, man has been perfected, it is heaven on earth, all human beings are equal, and think and act the same. The idea of a mythical perfect society was first mentioned by Plato in his work The Republic in 380 BC. The word ‘Utopia’ was coined by Sir Thomas More in his 1516 book Utopia, depicting a fictional island paradise in the Atlantic Ocean. In the Wizard of Oz movie, the Land of Oz was depicted as Utopia.

In 1848, Karl Marx wrote in the Communist Manifesto that it is historically inevitable for societies to pass through four stages: feudalism, capitalism, socialism, and finally communism. In communist society, Marx described a ‘workers paradise’ where perfect happiness and universal fulfillment would be achieved though the abundance of goods and services that only a government controlled society could produce. In the modern era, socialists adopted Thomas More’s satirical idea of Utopia and Marx’s worker’s paradise as the realistic blueprint for a nation state. Ruling over ‘paradise,’ the leader of Communist society was considered to be ‘God on earth’. However, countries that adopted the Marxist model suffered economic devastation and biological destruction as 100 million were killed in peacetime through starvation, gulags, and political repression in an attempt to mold human beings to fit into Utopia.

 All through history, millions of people have believed charlatans like Mao, Stalin, Castro, and others, each of whom promised Utopia, but delivered something quite different some of which included the gulag, economic devastation, starvation, and mass murder.

Filmmaker Joel Gilbert shows us why Dorothy followed that yellow brick road. He takes us across America to see what is at the end of the rainbow and whether it is Utopia or something else. Gilbert confronts Progressives and takes us into their political fantasy of utopia. What we see is an exploration of that what is known as Progressivism, amnesty for illegals, race relations, Islam in America, political correctness, and Barack Obama himself, who promises to “remake the world as it should be.”  What has not been decided, however, is whether Utopia is the destination of America or is the truth that happiness in this country belongs at home and from home it will come.

Utopia is a fantasy, one that can never exist on earth. Yet socialists, who now call themselves “Progressives,” believe that Utopia is a realistic model for the modern nation state. Tragically, 100 million people were killed by Progressives in peace time in the 20th Century as they were recreated to fit into Utopia.

 In “The Wizard of Oz” we saw that there was no wizard. President Obama is also no wizard and his promises have turned out to be empty ones. Going back in history we see that America’s character was formed by the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. These documents created an American identity of individual freedom, free markets, free speech, and limited government. Yet, America has been under siege by a vast left wing conspiracy against these great principles for many years. Obama’s election was the culmination of an American socialist movement that Obama’s real father, Frank Marshall Davis, nurtured in Chicago and Hawaii, and that has been quietly infiltrating the US economy, universities, and media for decades. They successfully took over the Democrat party, which today is a radical socialist party. Now they have managed to fool most Americans with a simple change of terminology. There is still a strong traditional society in this country and there are still Americans who want a traditional life and lifestyle and they are willing to do what it takes to attain and keep it.

Using “The Wizard of Oz” as an extended metaphor for the trickery and fraud that underlies the quest to perfect human nature and bring about heaven on earth that Marx promised is how the director brings his message home. He takes on big themes and then tells us the story of what is happening today. Joel is the Dorothy of his film but his yellow brick road leads him to find out what happens when politics try to create utopias. Gilbert travels to Detroit, Newark, Miami, Washington, DC, Hollywood, Dearborn, Los Angeles Chicago’s South Side and Hyde Park, and Denver, as well as his hometown of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. “We visit the house where Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn live, talk to Michelle Obama’s mother through her closed door at the house where Michelle grew up, and attempt to walk down the street where the Obamas lived in Hyde Park. We speak with Jack Cashill, Jerome Corsi, David Horowitz, and former KGB agent Konstantin Preobrazhensky, who provide background and context.” We meet both ordinary and extraordinary people who are coping with what the director calls “Obama’s America”.

The film is a wake-up call—we see a “dying, deteriorating America, sick mentally and physically”. Joel Gilbert unmasks the New Leftist masters of America. He also manages to explain to Americans many complicated things and ideas and does so in a fun way. What we see is very sad— the destruction of American political life, at the hands of the Americans themselves.

“EVERY THREE SECONDS”— Five Everyday People

 every three seconds


Five Everyday People

Amos Lassen

The time has come to make poverty obsolete in the world today. This film is the story of five people who have taken a stand and a step in the fight against poverty and hunger and as they did they changed both themselves and the world. We meet a youngster, a college student, a thirty something and two senior citizens who are working hard to change the world. Social justice is a very important part of how I live and so I would hope that it is the same for you.

Because our world has become so materialistic, we wonder if it is possible to find happiness today or even just know what it is. Daniel Karslake tells us in  “Every                 Three Seconds”  that in doing good we are changing both the world and ourselves.

The film takes complex issues and challenges and then makes them accessible to everyone regardless of age. The people that we meet here are inspiring because they make the world so much better to live in.  The people that we meet here are everyday heroes and thereby make us want to go  the step further.

 The DVD extras: include the Director’s Travel Vlog • Waithaka’s Artwork (short video) • Participant Media PSA 

“URANIUM DRIVE-IN”— Trying in Survive

uranium drive in


Trying in Survive

Amos Lassen

Suzan Beraza’s new documentary is the story of a community striving for one last chance at survival. The film looks at a proposed uranium mill in southwestern Colorado (the first to be built in the U.S. in 30 years) and a community’s emotional debate pitting a population desperate for jobs and financial stability against opposition from an environmental group based in a nearby resort town.

The people that live in Naturita, Colorado (519 citizens) dream of a time when the economy and opportunities for their children will be better. In the 70s and 80s time was better because of uranium mining. Mayor Tarri Lowrance weighs the possibilities for a better time and things indeed do sound better because of the possibilities offered by Energy Fuels Inc. The Toronto based company has proposed the building of Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill that will be the first to be built in the US in three decades. The mayor feels that the mill will bring life back.

uranium 1

But these are also those with doubts. Listening to what is said at town meetings lets us see that no one thinks that mining is the ideal solution.

 The residents in Naturita grew up with it, saw their parents and grandparents do the work and pay the costs. Even knowing the choice is between bad options, they still have to have money to buy food.

 “Uranium Drive-In” shows us that the landscape of western America can be destroyed and that comes from our national energy policy decisions. The film offers a range of perspectives that will surely get people talking about it.

 “Beyond its provocative subject matter, we were especially impressed by the delicate and complex manner in which the film balances opposing perspectives.”

- Basil Tsiokos, Senior Programmer, DOC NYC

 “8 out of 10! Follows all sides of the controversy.” – PopMatters

 “Captivating…from mass consumerism to a small community’s livelihood, ‘Uranium Drive-In’ takes a more personal approach to an environmental issue.” – TakePart

“NUCLEAR NATION”— Nuclear Refugees

nuclear nation


Nuclear Refugees

Amos Lassen

On March 11, 2013 a tremendous tsunami triggered by an 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit Japan and rendered unoperational the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. It released radiation and the residents of Futaba became nuclear refugees. Director Atsushi Funahashi brings us footage that shows the devastation that came—dead livestock left to rot, crops abandoned, homes and businesses destroyed. It was all much worse than any news report could tell and now, a year later, many still cannot return home; their houses are contaminated.

There is irony with what happened here is that Japan is a nation that has already dealt with two nuclear bombs and her citizens now question their responsibility. This film looks at what happened at Fukushima and if the same thing could be recreated on an epic scale.

The film focuses on those who were directly affected by the Fukushima reactor fallout— the evacuees from Futaba, which became their ground on March 12, 2011. We see their hardship and fortitude, but the alarming implications of corporate and governmental indifference and ineptitude. We watch the resettlement of 1,415 Futaba residents at the abandoned Kisai High School in Saitama, a suburban city near Tokyo which took place after their initial evacuation to the capital in the wake of tsunami-triggered hydrogen explosions in the towns’ nuclear plants Nos. 1, 2 and 3.  We first see a preliminary survey of makeshift and inhospitable living conditions and the focus shifts to what two specific families. The Nakais are a father and son who now have to live with the inconsolable regret of not having had enough time to search for their missing wife and mother during the hasty retreat. The Yokoyamas, a three-generation family, is close and pragmatic, even with their periodic separations and permanent uprooting.

nuclear nation 1

Idogawa, a soft-spoken, unassuming man takes us through the endless lobbying sessions with Tokyo Electric Power Co. management and government officials. The company claims to have made an “unprecedented decision” by promptly evacuating the whole town, thus saving his people from unimaginable health hazards, and this causes us to see Idogawa as an honest man of integrity and drive who displays enough humility to confess his past misjudgments and attempts to correct them. These qualities were obviously lacking at higher political and corporate levels as the film shows us. His account of what happened is frank and very, very sad and as he speaks we see how the town was dependent on the plant. The film spans ten months during which we are reminded of an apocalyptic wasteland. The story is written, narrated and filmed exclusively from the point of view of the survivors of the tsunami and the subsequent reactor vessel explosions. It changes every day and yet somehow stays the same.

The huge atomic power complex was built to serve which used it to excess. Yet when disaster struck, Tokyo, it was the residents of Futaba, Fukushima who lost everything. They lost homes, friends, families, traditions and social networks. Worst of all, they lost their standing in Japanese society. They have become outcasts, pariahs and refugees in their own country. Top Japanese officials appear to be dedicated to the preservation and strengthening of the denial that they exist. The devastation experienced by Futaba, dead livestock left to rot, crops abandoned, homes and businesses destroyed, was infinitely worse than anything reported by the newspapers. The survivors have become an inconvenient truth that the government wants to cover up.

“Nuclear Nation” is a moving requiem for the lost town, as well as a quietly outraged expose of how the people of Futaba were lied to, and neglected by the power company and by the Japanese government. “Nuclear Nation” is a film that listens patiently, and at length, to the voices of those who lost the people and things most precious to them, and mourns the people, and their way of life, that have passed away.  Constituents have been forced to be rootless and they face discrimination as a result of being exposed to radiation, and humiliation because the town’s pariah reputation.

The most memorable scene in the film comes when the mayor taking the government officials to task, calls them out as liars and condemns their stalling, waffling, and inaction in the face of his constituent’s urgent needs. In yet another scene, residents from eight towns with nuclear plants protest this governmental inaction. “Let us go home!,” they cry.

“This film will force you to reassess all the arguments for and against nuclear power.”

- The New York Times

“Worthy and troubling. Director Atsushi Funahashi uses his camera as silent witness to what, up to now, has not been fully seen and acknowledged.” –

“An assured and sobering documentary. Employing straightforward, music-free aesthetics that express the grim realities of his story, Funahashi captures both grief and outrage in equal measure, all of it tinged with the displaced and desolate citizens’ regret over having predicated their fates on the very energy-source technology that cost them so much during WW II.

“THE BEST OF THE DANNY KAYE SHOW”— “Six uncut episodes of the Emmy-winning 1963-1967 variety show”

the best of danny kaye

“The Best Of The Danny Kaye Show”

 “Six uncut episodes of the Emmy-winning 1963-1967 variety show”

Amos Lassen

Danny Kaye was at the height of his popularity when The Danny Kaye Show debuted on CBS in the fall of 1963. A pair of Broadway hits “Lady In the Dark” and “Let’s Face It” and a succession of classic films including The Secret Life of Walter MittyThe Inspector GeneralKnock On WoodUp In ArmsThe Court JesterHans Christian Andersen, and White Christmas made Danny Kaye one of the biggest stars in show business.

His international humanitarian work for UNICEF, and sold out concerts at places like the London Palladium and the Palace Theater in New York, helped make Kaye a worldwide sensation. He won the Emmy Award for best variety performer in 1964, and the show was honored with three more Emmys, including outstanding variety series. 

The Danny Kaye Show was the perfect showcase for its stars unequaled range of talents. In this collection of six uncut episodes – available now for the first time – Danny sings with Ella Fitzgerald, Nana Mouskouri and Harry Belafonte. He sings and dances with Liza Minnelli and Gene Kelly, and deftly clowns his way through comedy sketches with Art Carney, Rod Serling, Jackie Cooper, and a certain perennially 39-year old legend of comedy, who makes an unannounced cameo appearance.

Also featured in this collection are Michelle Lee, Buddy Greco, John Gary, Joe & Eddie, Lovelady Powell and Alan Young. Series regulars include Harvey Korman, Jamie Farr, Joyce Van Patten and orchestra leader Paul Weston. 

Among the numerous gems found in The Best of the Danny Kaye Show: Danny conducting the Television City Philharmonic, a spoof of The Twilight Zone with Rod Serling, and performances of Danny Kaye classics “Pavlova” written by Danny’s wife Sylvia Fine and originally seen in the film The Kid From Brooklyn, and “Ballin’ the Jack” from On the Riviera. 

Danny’s other numbers include, “You Make Me Feel So Young,” “Pennies From Heaven,” and a rollicking duet with Harry Belafonte on “Hava Nagila.” 

Whether experiencing the joy that is Danny Kaye for the first time, or revisiting his extraordinary gifts, viewers of all ages will find the irresistible and legendary entertainer at the top of his game on The Best of the Danny Kaye Show. Below is a listing of what you will find on the two DVD set.

Disc 1:

Consider Yourself (from Oliver)

Bye Bye Blackbird

Cherry Pies Ought to Be You (from Out of This World)

Ain’t Misbehavin’ (from Hot Chocolates)

Top Hat, White Tie and Tails (from Top Hat)

Boo Hoo (You’ve Got Me Crying For You)

Children, Go Where I Send Thee

The Rain In Spain (from My Fair Lady) (parody)

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

(You Got) Trouble (from The Music Man) (parody)

You Make Me Feel So Young

I Could Write a Book (from Pal Joey)

By Myself (from Between the Devil)

You’ll Never Get Away

Medley:I Could Write a Book (from Pal Joey), New York, New York (from On the Town) , Long Ago and Far Away (from Cover Girl) , ‘S Wonderful (from Funny Face), Singin’ In The Rain

Ballin That Jack

Side By Side

I Like the Likes of You

Do You Ever Think of Me


Disc 2:

Who Will Buy? (from Oliver)



Walk On

Mama Look a Boo Boo


Opa Ni Na Nai

Gonna Build a Mountain (from Stop the World…)

Hava Nagila

Pennies From Heaven

For Every Man There’s a Woman (from Casbah)

Maybe This Time

Let’s Talk It Over

Just An Honest Mistake

Hawaiian Wedding Song

A Fellow Needs A Girl (from Allegro)

The Most Beautiful Girl In The World

It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing

We Like Each Other

Mood Indigo

Body and Soul

Moment of Truth

Satin Doll


Going Out of My Head

Medley: Where Or When, September in the Rain, New Sun In the Sky, Great Day, Happy Days Are Here Again

“THE HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD”—Dealing with Anti-Semitism in the Movies


“The House of Rothschild”

Dealing with Anti-Semitism in the Movies

Amos Lassen

Some of you might wonder why I am reviewing a film that was released in 1934 and the answer is quite simple. Lately we have seen an overt rise in anti-Semitism all over the world and while reading about this; I decided to have a look at the image of the Jew as portrayed in some of the classic films that have come out. “The House of Rothschild” is one of those films and it actually won the Academy Award as best film in the year it was released. It has almost been a standing argument as to why filmmakers have not dealt with Nazism and anti-Semitism in the movies. There are those that say that the heads of Hollywood studios did not want controversy while others have said that it is probably because the industry moguls were Jews themselves and they did not want to bring attention to who they were. And there were others who claim that economics played a role in it and that American movie studios had strong financial interests in Germany and did not want to make anyone angry. And then there are those that say that films about the subject would indeed stir up more anti-Semitism. Finally there was the Motion Picture Association’s Production Code Office whose responsibility it was to self-censor.

Then in 1933, Darryl F. Zanuck decided to take on Nazism and anti-Semitism at his new studio, Twentieth Century Pictures, and took an idea from actor George Arliss and produced “The House of Rothschild.” Now we have to think about who would make a movie about a Jewish banking family at the time that the Nazi party was picking up strength in Germany and the reaction was that this picture was one that no one who was Jewish wanted to see made. Zanuck, however, was not Jewish and wished to attack anti-Semitism and against all kinds of resistance he made the film. If we pay attention to the listings on television we see that “The House of Rothschild” is airing on the Turner Classic Movies channel, as part of the month-long series, “The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film.”

This is a movie that has been by and large forgotten and was misunderstood by many. George Arliss plays two parts— father and son Mayer and Nathan Rothschild. As Mayer Amschel, some see him as anti-Semitic.  We see him playing with coins and trying to find a way not to pay taxes. This does not promote a comfortable feeling. However, this is the reality of the way things were.

As we learn more of the family’s predicament and the excessive restrictions and attacks brought on the residents of Jew Street in the ghetto, we soon understand and we empathize with Mayer, his wife and five sons. Arliss and Zanuck took wanted to create a sympathetic portrait of Mayer and to show him as a Jew who was a persecuted minority and deprived of rights.

In order to cover any possible bad feelings by the audience toward the family, the film introduced a fictional anti-Semite, Prussian Count Ledrantz,  (Boris Karloff). In watching the film from beginning to end, Zanuck wanted to show that the restrictions that were put on Jews were discriminatory. Jews were attacked just because they were Jews but despite this they were many Jews like the Rothschilds who went after their dreams and they were able to become successful and wealthy.  Even though the film was set in Bavaria of the 18th and 19th century, American audiences understood its contemporary anti-Nazi message, some even believing it to be too pro-Semitic.

American Jews were well aware of the growing strength of the Nazis as Germany’s economic woes got worse, but Hitler’s defeat in 1932 provided some relief and many considered Nazism as a fringe group. When Hitler was named Chancellor just a few months later and democratic Germany overnight became a totalitarian state, we were shocked. There was a heightened sense of concern among those who oversaw Jewish communal life when Nazi propaganda was making its way to America. Those in the movie industry were well aware of this.

Work on “The House of Rothschild,” began just months after Hitler’s rise to power and at a time of great anxiety about rising anti-Semitism in America is important here. Many things came into play–the depressed economy, the need for a start-up film company to have important and press-worthy films and a developing Jewish communal structure was not sure how to make itself heard.

 The film is the story of the rise of the Rothschild financial empire founded by Mayer Rothschild and continued by his five sons. From humble beginnings the business grows and helps to finance the war against Napoleon, but it was not always easy, especially because of the prejudices against Jews. We see a sign stating that on Jew Street “All Jews must be inside the Jew Street by Sundown, Chancellor of Prussia.”
 The rest is for you to see in the film itself.

“DIPLOMACY”— Paris, Dietrich von Cholitz and Raoul Nordling



Paris, Dietrich von Cholitz and Raoul Nordling

Amos Lassen

  Volker Schlöndorff brings us a historical drama that shows us the relationship between two important men; Dietrich von Cholitz, the German military governor of occupied Paris, and Swedish consul-general Raoul Nordling. As the Allies marched into Paris in the summer of 1944, Hitler ordered that the city should not be allowed to fall into the hands of the enemy and if it does it should be reduced to rubble. Hitler designated General Dietrich von Cholitz, Wehrmacht commander of Greater Paris to carry this out. Von Cholitz already had mines planted on the Eiffel Tower, in the Louvre and Notre-Dame and on the bridges over the Seine. Nothing should be left as a reminder of the city’s former glory.


What was not expected was that on August 25, Swedish Consul General Raoul Nordling entered German headquarters  via an underground secret tunnel and at this point began a very tense cat and mouse game while Nordling tried to persuade Cholitz to leave Paris and his plan alone. The film is based on a 2011 stage play and it is an elaborate drama of politics. Cholitz stands behind his duty to obey unquestioningly all military orders; Nordling  does everything he can to appeal to reason and humanity to stop the destruction of Paris.


It is from this that the expression “Is Paris Burning” comes. Hilter asked von Cholitz that very question. The film is a fictionalized confrontation between the two men that lasted all night and was to decide the future of Paris. It is set at the Hotel Meurice on Rue de Rivoli. The two men are in an extended battle of wits that leaves us almost breathless until the very end. The odds constantly shift and just when we think that one side has won, the other side comes up with something else.

André Dussollier is the Swedish consul general  and Niels Arustrup is von Cholitz. They engage in a captivating battle of words about the importance of preserving a country’s cultural heritage and we are taken through twists and turns as we learn that the question of saving Paris for both men is a personal rather than a moral issue. The real beauty of the film is in the tension that is created by the two main characters. Nordling, a slightly greasy man who likes to wheel and deal has nothing to trade with von Cholitz. All we can do is to appeal to the general’s vanity and his own genuine love of the city. We become aware of director Schlöndorff’s fascination with moral choices and the war.


The two men are the last representatives of a dying breed and they draw a verbal web of spells between each other, attempting to twist their decisions. Their conversation becomes a battle of perfect manners and gentlemanly chivalry as the fate of Paris hangs on diplomacy. They wait for the right word at the right time and we truly see the art of diplomacy and the manipulation of language.


 The film opens in New York on Wednesday, October 15, 2014 and in Los Angeles on Friday, November 7.

“THE DECENT ONE” (“DER ANSTÄNDIGE”)— Himmler as a Loving Husband and Devoted Father

the decent one

Himmler as a Loving Husband and Devoted Father

Amos Lassen  

A recently discovered cache of hundreds of personal letters, diaries and photos belonging to the Nazi Gestapo chief Heinrich Himmler show him to be a loving husband and a devoted father. These documents were found first in the Himmler house in 1945 but were then hidden in Tel Aviv, Israel for decades and were eventually sold to the father of Vanessa Lapa, a documentary filmmaker. It is from them that we get a picture of a different Heinrich Himmler. Using the documents as well as newly restored archival footage from Germany, Lapa has managed to bring us a fascinating case study of a man who was part of the Final Solution; the extermination of the Jews of Europe.


The film is a portrait of the man responsible for some of the worst atrocities of the Second World War yet who thought of himself in heroic terms.

Heinrich Himmler was a man who should now inspire loathing in the minds and hearts of all who know anything about history.  He was one of the greatest mass murderers of the 20th Century. With the end of the war, Himmler committed suicide but he did so probably thinking that he had done God’s work.  Lapa was able to get and to use some of the most fantastic archival clips imaginable about the dark days of Nazi rule in Germany.  It is unlikely that you’ve seen a single frame of documentation culled from several sources, including hundreds of letters and photos found in Himmler’s home after it was occupied by Americans. She also had access to film that was being housed in Israel at the Ghetto Fighters House at Kibbutz Givat Hashlosha.  The Germans had a love for detail and record keeping and from this Lapa was able to make this film.


Heinrich Himmler directed the mass extermination of six million Jews, tens of thousands of homosexuals and communists and even up to 500,000 Romani.  Yet he writes to his daughter in 1941, “In life, one must always be decent, courageous and kind-hearted.”  A more accurate depiction of this chicken farmer raised to almost the highest level in the Nazi SS is: “The best political weapon is the weapon of terror.  Cruelty demands respect.  Men may hate us, but we don’t ask for their love; only for their fear and their submission.”  What a study in contrasts.

The film is presented chronologically from the birth of Himmler. He had been a farmer having studied agronomy in college. He joined the  He was appointed Reichsführer by Hitler and he was able to get the organization to grow into a powerful group. He was promoted in 1943 to Chief of German Police and Minister of the Interior, overseeing the Gestapo.  He is the person responsible for the building of the concentration and extermination camps. He was directly responsible for the deaths of up to fourteen million people, mostly Polish and Soviet citizens.


Himmler went to his self-administered death without remorse yet his daughter Gudrun has made regular attempts to whitewash her father’s history. (See the film, “Hitler’s Children”).  She remained a Nazi and kept an image of Himmler as not just a decent one but also an exemplary one. The archival film, even more than the exposé of the letters that Himmler writes to his wife (whom he loves despite his taking up with a mistress), makes “The Decent One” a compulsory film to see.  What we have seen over and over again is that the people responsible for out-and-out evil  consider themselves to be decent. Psychologists, historians and moralists have long debated how seemingly ordinarily people can do monstrous things. Lapa discovers some almost unbelievable discrepancies between Himmler’s self-image and his historical role  and her film shines a new, piercing light on the human capacity for self-delusion and the very nature of evil.


The film was Winner of the Best Documentary award at the 2014 Jerusalem Film Festival and premiered at last year’s Berlin film fest. The film opens in Los Angeles on October 10, 2014.