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Sunday, November 25, 2007

BARBET SCHROEDER'S TERROR'S ADVOCATE


TERROR'S ADVOCATE opened this weekend at my neighborhood movie house, the Oak Street cinema. A small movie on a complex subject, it is the work of accomplished French director, Barbet Schroeder who never stops to wallow in fame or fortune and continues to explore controversial topics and the people at the center of international uproar.

In today's political world simply being French and born in Iran could be inflammatory enough to get all the smashmouth screaming radio-jocks and FOX News anti-intellectual blowhards spitting and angry invective. Add to that the subject of this film, Jacques Verges, the lawyer who defended Pol Pot, Carlos the Jackal, Slobodna Milosovic and Klaus Barbie and the wizards of emotional spin on the right-wing are likely to go all-Taliban on us.

Even decent Americans who believe in the fundamental America right in the great writ of habeas corpus might wonder why Verges is attracted to the most evil men in the world and how he can defend their rationalizations let alone be in their close company.

Barbet Schroeder is a French director born in 1941 in Tehran to a German-born physician mother and a Swiss geologist father who came into filmmaking during the French New Wave of the early 1960s. He grew up much of his youth in Central Africa and Columbia before settling in Paris. Schroeder is also fascinated by why and how people become so contestable.

Barbet's first film as a director was MORE (1969) on the subject of heroin addiction but he later directed a number of large budget American films BARFLY (1987) with Mickey Rourke based on the alcoholic poet Charles Bukowski (the first of many Bukowski bio-films); KISS OF DEATH (1995) another thriller with Nicolas Cage and Samuel L. Jackson; SINGLE WHITE FEMALE (1992) a New York thriller starring Bridget Fonda; and notably REVERSAL OF FORTUNE (1990) that won an Oscar for Jeremy Irons for his depiction of the films subject Claus Von Bulow.

Barbet is well known for his 25 year engagement with French New Wave star and working theater actress Bulle Ogier (mother of the late film star Pascale Ogier) until he finally married Bulle in 2000. I first met Barbet in Los Angeles in 1984 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel while he was preparing for the Bukowski film. Despite his cross over success from the French producer of Eric Rohmer's films to director of big-budget American films, Barbet remained interested in making small films that challenge educated art-house audiences and clearly L'Avocat de la Terreur (TERROR'S ADVOCATE) is one of his films that asks us to look at the world with all its complexity instead of simple black and white dichotomies.

Schroeder is a filmmaker who keeps us actively thinking about the moral and ethical dimensions of our world. He could be making millions of dollars shooting action thrillers but there is more to life than fame and fortune.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cool--thanks for the post, and info on the director. I'm very interested in seeing this film. Jacques Verges has some scenes in "Hotel Terminus"--he's very opinionated--but that's all I've seen of him, despite a few pictures that circulate in the media.