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Leni’s Reich

Waiting 2.5 hours in line at the RMV has its advantages. One of these is that it forces me to get through an entire New Yorker and learn more about Phil Collins or Leni Riefenstahl than I'd ever want to … Read More

By / March 26, 2007

Waiting 2.5 hours in line at the RMV has its advantages. One of these is that it forces me to get through an entire New Yorker and learn more about Phil Collins or Leni Riefenstahl than I'd ever want to know. Riefenstahl is more alluring in a historical context, but the ambiguity of Collins' sexuality makes him intirguing in an Elton John I was married before so I'm most likely bi way.

So what's the big hoopla about Steven Bach's new 400-page expose of Leni? For one, its subject. Without a doubt, Riefenstahl is one of the most compelling figures of the 20th Century. Her influential dalliances with Hitler, fascism, film, art, and Aryan perfection played against a relatively humble upbringing and partly Jewish genetic pool (her mother was half Jewish) allow for a more serious psychological exploration of Riefenstahl and her motives.

Either way, Leni is presented as calculated, cold, and manipulative. But her ambition, misguided as it was and unsurpassed even by the aggressive male circles she found herself in, inspires. Above all, Bach envisions Leni as the ultimate survivor. Even in the several decades following WWII, Riefenstahl claimed that she knew nothing of Jewish atrocities during the Holocaust. She was never an apologist. And she had, as it so happened, a whole lot of time on her side.

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