Le Chagrin et la Pitié (The Sorrow and the Pity) (1970)
Made for French television, Marcel Ophüls' four-hour-plus documentary explores the average French citizen's memories of the Nazi occupation. Just how large and effective was the fabled resistance movement? Is cooperation the same thing as collaboration? And how did one's up-close-and-personal experiences with the occupation troops impact one's postwar life? These questions are probingly posed (but not all are answered) by Ophüls, who also acts as offscreen interviewer. The first half of the film is a mosaic of sights and sounds from the years 1940-1944: Maurice Chevalier singing for the German troops, clips of propagandistic newsreels, appalling vignettes from the scurrilous anti-Semitic film drama Jew Suss (1940), and the like. Ophüls' interpretation of history as the "process of recollection, in things like choice, selective memory, rationalization" is fully illustrated in the film's long second half, which is devoted almost entirely to interviews, in which the subjects display emotions ranging from mild embarrassment to abrupt rage. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi … More
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Critic Reviews for Le Chagrin et la Pitié (The Sorrow and the Pity)
It's valuable mainly as a brilliant assemblage of documents and testimonies.
The mosaic is comprehensive, the documentation overwhelming, particularly regarding the nature and extent of collaboration.
In its complexity, its humanity, its refusal to find easy solutions, this is one of the greatest documentaries ever made.
It soberly spotlights history -- impressively human, not pedantic, levels.
It remains the preeminent documentary about historical tragedy and one of the most exhilaratingly demanding experiences the movies have ever offered.
The postwar, Gaullist myth of massive French resistance to fascism has long since been destroyed, yet The Sorrow and the Pity retains its shattering power as an interrogation of memory.
A work which helped change the way France viewed its own past, The Sorrow And The Pity is an impressively assembled documentary which combines archival footage and detailed personal testimonies to profound effect.
Through its scale, intelligence, wit, imaginative organisation and polemical thrust, it changed the face of the documentary forever.
The film is so boldly conceived, richly textured and beautifully paced that its marathon running time feels more like a sprint.
Documentary about the horrors of occupying a foreign country. Especially well worth watching now.
What is exceptional about the film is its comprehensive structure.
A grand, astonishingly comprehensive document, recorded with unfailing persistence and intelligence.
Though lengthy and obviously downbeat, the 1970 film should be a staple for all serious filmgoers.
For any history buff, this film is a must-see. (Try breaking it up into chunks.)
Ophüls is more relentless than Mike Wallace in getting beneath the cover stories and revealing the truth.
Audience Reviews for Le Chagrin et la Pitié (The Sorrow and the Pity)
I had always thought devotion to this movie was being made fun of in Annie Hall, until I saw it (and it takes a while to see it). The drama is amazing during the second half, with all you know about the characters from the first.More
[font=Century Gothic]Directed by Marcel Ophuls, "The Sorrow and the Pity" is an epic documentary about the occupation of France by Nazi Germany from 1940-1944 during World War II, with the spotlight on the city of Clermont which is close to Vichy. The documentary starts out by being a damning examination of the French surrender and capitulation, leading to a collaboration with the Nazis that led to increased anti-Semitism, which may not have totally faded decades later. And in one horrific instance, the French authorities outdo the Nazis in cruelty. The bourgeoisie are portrayed as living their lives as usual during the occupation but the Communists who formed a good deal of the resistance are treated much better. Anti-Communist fervor was a factor that led the French ultra-nationalists to work with the Nazis.[/font]
[font=Century Gothic]The documentary consists of interviews with English, French and German participants recalling their wartime experiences a quarter century after the fact. Most prominent of the interviewees are Anthony Eden and Pierre Mendes-France. Also shown are clips from Nazi propaganda films.[/font]
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