September 14, 2006
Films: just what made Adolf run?
One of the more useful -- and odder -- examples is "Black Fox: The True Story of Adolf Hitler," which won the 1962 Academy Award for documentaries.
The films screens Sept. 18 and kicks off the 11-part "Oscar's Docs: Part Two," a retrospective of the top full-length and short documentaries from 1961 to 1976. A primary virtue of "Black Fox" is to cram into its 90 minutes a concise, highly visual history of Hitler's career arc, from his birth in 1889 to his suicide in 1945, with the hanging of his top henchmen following the Nuremberg trial as a postscript.
Using little-known historical footage, the film touches Hitler's school days, failed artist's career in Vienna, World War I combat, unsuccessful 1923 putsch, imprisonment and early leadership of the Nazi Party to his better-known roles as initiator of World War II, murderer of millions, and defeated warlord.
With equal economy and skill, filmmaker Louis Clyde Stoumen and narrator Marlene Dietrich sketch daily life in Germany under the Kaiser, the Weimar Republic, and the Nazi regime.
In what must have seemed like a brilliant concept at the time, Stoumen likens Hitler's rise to the medieval fable of Reynard the Fox. Reynard is a shrewd trickster, who gains dominance of the animal kingdom by a combination of ruthlessness, hypocritical piety, and the promise to save the animals from the wolf (read Joseph Stalin).
Abetting the fox are the bear (Hermann Goering) and the donkey (Joseph Goebbels).
The film intercuts between the real Hitler and his foxy alter ego, but the allegory becomes increasingly labored and fades away toward the end of the documentary.
Following the "Black Fox" screening on Sept. 18 are two other films of special interest.
"Chagall" on Sept. 25 is a short documentary that combines an analysis of the artist's painting with his personal story, against a backdrop of world events of the time. The film was shot when Chagall was in his 70s and won a 1963 Oscar.
"Number Our Days" will be shown Nov. 27. The 1976 Academy Award winner affectionately portrays the residents of the Israel Levine Senior Adult Center in Venice as the landscape and population changes around them.
Oscar's Docs" will be presented on consecutive Mondays at 7:30 p.m. from Sept. 18-Nov. 27 at the Linwood Dunn Theatre, 1313 N. Vine St., Hollywood.