On Sunday, I went to see a French film called, Diplomacy. It’s from on a stage play, that’s in turn based on a true story. (As was reminded to me by Greg Van Buskirk, it's the subject matter of the best-selling book and film Is Paris Burning? That was made in 1966, with an all-star star ensemble cast, this is completely intimate and deals almost exclusively with the two people at the direct center of the situation.)
Near the end of World War II, Hitler gave an order that bombs be secreted throughout Paris -- especially under its greatest monuments -- so that the entire city would be blown up if the Allies ever arrived to free the city. And not just the city would be destroyed, but probably 1.5 million people. The film is about the Swedish diplomat Raoul Nordling who makes his way to the German military governor General von Choltitz prepared to give the order, as the Allies are on the outskirts of the city, about to entire, and his last-minute efforts to convince the general not to go through with the devastation.
(I don’t want to give away whether the city is blown up or not…)
It’s quite wonderful – and surprisingly taut, given that everyone watching knows what happens. But it’s the how and the personalities that pulls it all together, with terrific writing, very smart and crisp. It’s also very well-directed by Volker Schlondorff, who did The Tin Drum” and The Handmaid’s Tale, among many others (including two memorable American TV films, one the version of Death of a Salesman that starred Dustin Hoffman, and a great production, A Gathering of Old Men with Holly Hunter and Louis Gossett, Jr.) – the direction is notable considering most of it takes place in one room, but never feels static (though a slight sense of claustrophobia helps the ticking clock). And there are two great performances by the Niels Arestrup as the general and Andre Dussollier as the diplomat. It's fascinating story of history, beautifully done. And it’s only 88 minutes, so it doesn’t drag at all.
Here's the trailer.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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