Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie

Running close to five hours with an intermission, Marcel Ophuls's fascinating 1987 portrait of the Nazi “Butcher of Lyons,” who went on to work for the U.S. Counterintelligence Corps and to pursue a career as a drug and information trafficker in Bolivia, is a worthy successor to Ophuls's The Sorrow and the Pity. The format is basically talking-heads interviews with acquaintances and victims of Barbie that are arranged to give a lucid chronological account of his career, but Ophuls manages to treat his subject with a great deal of intelligence and irony—households with Christmas decor are plentiful among the settings—and only occasionally does he overplay his intermittent bent toward whimsy (e.g., looking under cabbages for a subject who doesn't want to be interviewed). Nearly a hundred people were interviewed, but the film represents only about a 14th of what Ophuls shot, and there's little sense of excess in the running time. Not a work of art in the sense that Shoah is, but investigative journalism at its best, solid and penetrating.

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