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Bereft of their dead Führer and Dr. Goebbels, the accused included suave “visionary” Albert Speer, air-marshal and art-pillager Hermann Goering (who looks guiltlessly bored by the crushing evidence of infamy), and odious Hans Frank, the chief tormentor of Poland (his mousey apology is a jaw-dropper). Most of the accused would be hung. Others (like Speer) got long prison terms, but how do you really punish people who so gladly constructed hell?

The film’s hero is the main American prosecutor, stern and eloquent Justice Robert H. Jackson. Its added value, beyond the trial scenes, is a powerful torrent of images about the Nazi rise, their serial crimes, their systematic “logic” of sadism. Designed to answer the staggering questions, “What happened, and why?” the movie does a searingly credible job, though the Holocaust is short-served (the full impact of that tragedy would take time to seep in, and films are still struggling with it).

Made by producer Pare Lorentz’s team, notably Sgt. Stuart Schulberg (brother of the famous Budd), the movie was shown in Germany but never released in America. This restoration of a German archival print was produced by Sandra Schulberg, Stuart’s daughter, and Josh Waletzky. As narrated by Liev Schreiber, this piercing testament has none of the stark humor found in writer Malcolm Muggeridge’s diary for March 19, 1946:

“Goering said under cross-examination at Nuremberg that he was sorry about the burning down of the Reichstag because he had to requisition the Kroll Opera House as alternative accommodation, and he regarded opera as in every respect a superior enterprise to the Reichstag.”

Reader rating: ★★★


Reviewed in the listings: Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer, Meet Monica Velour, and X-Men: First Class.

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Comments

monaghan June 29, 2011 @ 3:24 p.m.

I have been waiting two weeks to be able to comment on "Tree of Life." First of all, I was totally misled by the incredibly elegiac review of A.O. Scott from the New York Times who was clearly smoking something when he wrote the piece. But I am interested in Terrence Malick, so I went asap to the Landmark Hillcrest after the film opened.

Unfortunately, Terrence Malick seems to be on a downward path. His previous film, "The New World," from a few years ago, was only tolerable because one wondered what he'd been up to after a long hiatus. Now, "Tree of Life" appears and it is self-indulgent, awful, verging on funny.

In the first half-hour, fully a dozen citizens got up from their seats in the dark and left the theater, never to return. A bad sign.

The photography is beautiful, especially the flat old neighborhoods of Austin TX where it was filmed -- clapboard houses with open windows and porches, wide lawns and big trees, summertime. But there are inaudible questions in voice-over whispers, a prototypical lovey mom and a more-nuanced often-mean dad, three little boys who are brothers, one portrayed as a rebel.

At the end, when you have waited to read the credits, they are illegibly small, except for the words "Written and Directed by Terrence Malick."For a collaborative medium like film, this was the last straw for me.

Clearly the movie is intended to be autobiographical, maybe a summing-up for Malick who is in his 60's. I hope it was cathartic for him. But I was very disappointed and felt like a sucker for buying the amazing Palme d'Or hype.

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