The Sorrow and The Pity (4 stars)

The Sorrow and The Pity

(E) 249min
(Arrow DVD retail)

Sometimes it takes a foreigner to uncover the secret and lies at the heart of any community. Frankfurt born filmmaker Marcel Orphuls did exactly that to the people of Clermont-Ferrand in France in this his 1969 documentary. Originally made for French television, The Sorrow and the Pity chronicles the Nazi occupation of France from 1940 to 1944, using propagandist newsreels, rare footage and interviews with French Resistance fighters and former German officers as well as government officials, spies, war veterans and ordinary citizens. Focusing in particular on the occupation of the small French industrial city, Orphuls unblinkingly returns to issues of anti-Semitism and xenophobia prevalent in French society at the time. Arguably the daddy of the epic documentary form Orphuls’ long Academy Award winning trawl through one community’s shame deserves a place in anyone’s collection, lest any of us forget. This is the film that inspired Claude Lanzmann to make his seminal Holocaust documentary Shoah and Errol Morris to work in the way he does. Pay some respect. Extras include an interview with Orphuls.

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