The Sorrow and the Pity

(1969 – France) dir: Marcel Ophuls. Documentary
A somewhat inflammatory documentary about the real experience of France under the Nazi occupation, centering on the town of Clermont. It consists almost entirely of interviews with the participants — soldiers of both sides, resistance fighters, politicians, and even collaborators. At four hours long, it is a little punishing, but not for its length. The picture it paints is an ugly one… the extraordinary degree of collaboration, divisions among the various factions of the resistance, the complicity of the Vichy government in the persecution of Jews, and more. Small wonder that it was controversial in France; broadcasters there refused to show it. But it is an important record of what can happen to ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. It ain’t pretty.

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