Ophuls' documentary about the Nazi war criminal, expelled from Bolivia and returned to France for trial, is a mass of interview and newsreel spliced and juxtaposed to produce a narrative which is also a moral and historical record which is also a set of questions which can be reduced here to two crunchers: who are you to judge? what would you have done? The film rarely flags, despite copious location shifts and languages and subtitles which run the gamut and the gauntlet. From wartime France to fascist Bolivia, from boyhood admirers to aggrieved business partners and victims of the Nazis' butchery turning almost as much upon each other as their persecutor, the film is as much about selective memory and the vagaries of moral responsibility as a story of one man who affected so many, and who managed to work for not only the SS but also the Allies, the Bolivian arms runners and the romantically conceived Bolivian navy, and return to Lyons at the age of 71 more sprightly and confident than most of the people whose lives he wrecked. Superb.
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