Rarely revived-and never available on either VHS or DVD-Edgardo Cozarinsky’s One Man’s War-is one of the most historically incisive and esthetically daring (as well as one of the unjustly neglected) documentaries of the last forty years. How can one account for this film’s relative obscurity? Although Cozarinsky’s film deals with one of the most traumatic episodes in twentieth-century history-the Nazi occupation of Paris-it includes none of the sensationalist violence that usually accompanies Hollywood (or even the slicker European) films that take on this era. And unlike an equally estimable documentary which addresses the same subject-Marcel Ophuls’s The Sorrow and the Pity-One Man’s War does not even flog a controversial, easily summarizable thesis. Yet this almost unclassifiable documentary-a found-footage movie and essay film with literary and
political resonance-is far from innocuous. While Ophuls’s seminal film explicitly challenged what political scientist Stanley Hoffman once termed “the mythology of the French Resistance”- the erroneous assumption that France was completely united against Nazism during World War II with the exception of isolated collaborators-Cozarinsky more subtly undermines that myth through an extremely oblique and unorthodox modus operandi. Pascal Bonitzer of Cahiers du cinema labeled this film’s conception of documentary “archival montage.” Found footage of the German occupation-primarily Nazi and Vichy propaganda newsreels-is interwoven with diary recollections of contingent events recorded by the German novelist and essayist Ernst Junger (read as voice-over on the sound track by the actor Niels Arestrup). Instead of possessing the sheer visceral frisson of Eisensteinian montage, much of the cumulative power of One Man’s War resides in the collision of Junger’s icy introspection and the frequently chilling (although also occasionally banal) archival footage. If the film has any cautionary lessons to impart, they are not reducible to easily consumable bromides. Yet the blatant gap between private anguish and public inertia that becomes all too visible in Junger’s diary entries remains pertinent to our own era, in which the burgeoning genre of confessional memoirs promotes the myth that undiluted self-revelation is possible. Cozarinsky’s portrait of Junger demonstrates that self-obfuscation is a more prevalent autobiographical tendency.
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(54999) Jeonju Cine Complex, 22, Jeonjugaeksa 3-gil, Wansan-gu, Jeonju-si, Jeollabuk-do, Republic of Korea
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