Claude Lanzmann has culled another 218 minutes out of the extensive interviews he did for his monumental documentary Shoah. That means I have now spent over 24 hours in theatres watching Lanzmann documentaries about the Holocaust… But what does that mean for you?
If you have seen Shoah recently and you want to see more of the same, then the answer is obvious: you should definitely see The Last of the Unjust. But if your memories of Shoah are decades old at this point, I must say with some sadness that the Shoah I saw in 2011 was a far less powerful film than the Shoah I saw way back when at the Biograph.
The simple truth is that we all know a great deal more about the Holocaust now than we knew in the 1980s, and while Shoah certainly played a large role in forcing thousands of people all around the world to confront the facts of the Holocaust-in all their awesome enormity-most of us have moved on while it has stayed the same.
The Last of the Unjust fills in some of the chapters Lanzmann had edited out before, but the more you already know about Nisko and Theresienstadt, the less interesting The Last of the Unjust becomes.
The only thing really new in The Last of the Unjust is the opportunity to spend several hours in the company of Benjamin Murmelstein, a Rabbi living in Vienna in the 1930s who rose to prominence after the Anschluss, became the last President of the Jewish Council in Theresienstadt, and lived long enough to be the only "Jewish Elder" to survive World War II.
Murmelstein, comparing himself to Scheherazade, spins story after story, justifying his complicity with clichés, but Lanzmann seems to have lost his skepticism. I suggest you watch Michael Prazan's remarkable documentary The Trial of Adolf Eichmann instead.
Click here to read my full review of The Last of the Unjust, opening today at the Music Box Theater in Andersonville.
Click here for details on screening times and additional information on the Music Box website.
Photo Credit: Claude Lanzmann (left) interviews Benjamin Murmelstein in 1975. Photo courtesy of Cohen Media Group