For his definitive 1985 Holocaust landmark Shoah, director Claude Lanzmann will always have a place in the documentary firmament. In the years since, Lanzmann has returned to his hours of research and interviews to compose more movies, all of them vibrating with the committed idea that this subject requires lifetimes of study.
His latest, while fascinating, does feel like a detachable side story: It concerns the Schindlerian figure Benjamin Murmelstein, a rabbi and councilman who negotiated with SS lieutenant colonel Adolf Eichmann over matters at the Theresienstadt death camp, saving thousands of Jews while forever tarring himself as a collaborator. Lanzmann’s feisty exchanges with Murmelstein, a brilliant talker, become an emotional symbol for the pursuit of slippery truth, while the filmmaker’s recently shot footage of Yom Kippur services show a way of life in robust continuation.
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