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Hotel Terminus

The Life and Times of Klaus Bar­bi
Direct­ed by Mar­cel Ophüls
1988, MGM/United Artists

This bril­liant­ly con­struct­ed doc­u­men­tary presents the sto­ry of Klaus Barbie—head of the Gestapo in Lyon, France, dur­ing the Nazi occupation—by amass­ing inter­views with those who came into con­tact with the noto­ri­ous war crim­i­nal. The many inter­vie­wees speak at length (account­ing for the doc­u­men­tary’s total run­ning time of more than four hours), and an image of Bar­bie as both a real per­son and a sym­bol of evil slow­ly emerges. Those who knew him as a stu­dent pro­fess to be puz­zled over his lat­er rep­u­ta­tion, but a woman who served in the French resis­tance and was beat­en near­ly to death by Bar­bie solemn­ly recounts the hideous tor­tures he inflict­ed on her. Film­mak­er Mar­cel Ophüls (The Sor­row and the Pity) spoke to a num­ber of resis­tance vet­er­ans, aging Nazis, and even retired Amer­i­can intel­li­gence agents who employed Bar­bie to spy on Com­mu­nists fol­low­ing the end of World War II. When Ophüls con­duct­ed inter­views in the mid-1980s, Bar­bie was an old man lan­guish­ing in a French jail after decades of liv­ing com­fort­ably in South Amer­i­ca. Mem­o­ries of him, and all the pain he inflict­ed, were still vivid. As the many inter­view sub­jects speak (some slam doors and even punch at the cam­era), their own char­ac­ters and moti­va­tions are revealed, and the tru­ly unset­tling char­ac­ter of Klaus Bar­bie is exposed. —Robert J. McNa­ma­ra

THIS TITLE IS AVAILABLE IN VHS.