The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl (1993)
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Movie InfoIn the 1930s, Leni Riefenstahl was arguably the most important and accomplished female filmmaker of her generation; however, since her primary sponsor was Adolf Hitler, and her best-known work was a hagiographic documentary on the 1934 Nazi Party congress entitled Triumph of the Will, a long and unending debate has raged whether Riefenstahl was a fascist propagandist or a talented artist whose crime was merely doing a job too well. Macht der Bilder: Leni Riefenstahl is an exhaustive two-part look at Riefenstahl's life and work, exploring her early careers as a dancer and actress, reconstructing the making of Triumph of the Will and Olympia (an elaborate and visually striking record of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games), and her later success as a still photographer, cultural anthropologist, and underwater filmmaker. While the film was made with Riefenstahl's participation, director Ray Muller does not shrink from exploring both sides of the issues of her work with the Nazi regime (she claims to have never been a member of the party and to have been unaware of the genocide of Jews and other "undesirables," while Muller presents evidence that strongly suggests the contrary) even as it celebrates her accomplishments and fierce determination (as a girl she could climb mountains in her bare feet, and in her nineties she was still an avid scuba diver). Macht der Bilder: Leni Riefenstahl was released in the United States under the title The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi … More
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Critic Reviews for The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl
This is more often self-portrait than portrait; like Hitler in Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, she's presented as a fully formed deity without family background or ideology save a reverence for beauty and strength.
This movie is fascinating in so many different ways: As the story of an extraordinary life, as the reconstruction of the career of one of the greatest of film artists, as the record of an ideological debate, as a portrait of an amazing old woman.
A riveting docu about the controversial filmmaker who made some great propaganda art for Hitler
Overlong examination of the life of an enigmatic, willful, disengenuous, fascinating, influential and enormously gifted filmmaker.
Fascinating documentary about controversial director Len Riefenstahl.
A riveting and encyclopaedic biography of an extraordinary woman. But it also poses heavy questions. Can art ever be isolated from its political context? Are Riefenstahl's claims about her political innocence valid?
Mueller's dialectical approach allows him to expose many half-truths (and a few outright lies) by adducing contrary evidence; by the film's end, Riefenstahl's apologia emerges clearly as an elaborate mythification of self and history.
Riefenstahl masterfully dissects her own Triumph of the Will and forcefully denies that artists bear any special political responsibility.
A wonderful, fascinating documentary on the infamous German director, possibly the greatest female filmmaker in history.
... essential viewing ... to understand Riefenstahl or for anyone curious about how art and politics come out when on a collision course
This complex existence is the subject of writer/director Ray Mueller's engrossing documentary.
However misdirected, Riefenstahl's talent is here in full bloom. And audience members may leave with their own contradictory feelings about her life and what it means.
... really experience her energy and her drive for cinematic perfection.
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