USA 2015, 95 minutes, English
Director Lisa Vreeland, featuring Peggy Guggenheim
Back by popular demand. This film was sold out last season and as many members did not get in, we have given it a second viewing. This documentary film about the life of the art collector Peggy Guggenheim, is constructed around rediscovered audiotapes from the late 1970s and includes several classic film extracts (1929 to 1997). A colourful character who was not only ahead of her time but helped to define it, Peggy Guggenheim was an heiress to her family fortune who became a central figure in the modern art movement. As she moved through the cultural upheaval of the 20th century, she collected not only art, but artists. Her personal history included such figures as Samuel Beckett, Max Ernst, Jackson Pollock, Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp as well as countless others. While fighting through personal tragedy, she maintained her vision to build one of the most important collections of modern art.
Hungary, France, Israel, USA 2015, 107 mins, cert 15, subtitled
Director László Nemes, featuring Geza Rohrig, Levente Molnar, Urs Rech
This devastating and terrifying film by László Nemes is set in the Auschwitz II-Birkenau death camp in 1944. Saul, played by the 48-year-old Hungarian actor Géza Röhrig, is a Jewish prisoner who has been made part of the Sonderkommando. They must manage the day-to-day business of herding bewildered prisoners out of the trains and up to the very doors of the gas chambers and then removing the bodies. With staggering audacity, Son of Saul begins with something other, comparable movies would hardly dare approach even at the very end – the gas chamber itself. Here is where Saul discovers the body of a boy, whom he believes to be his son, and sets out to find a rabbi among the prisoners to give him a proper burial. Röhrig’s performance is transfixing, without ever drifting into the realm of actorly pretence. The final image of his face – transformed by events that may be real or hallucinatory – is extraordinary. Son of Saul reopens the debate around the Holocaust and its cinematic thinkability, addresses the aesthetic and moral issues connected with creating a fiction within it and probes the nature of Wittgenstein’s axiom “whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent”. (amended from Peter Bradshaw’s Guardian review)
UK 2015, 95 mins, PG Director David Evans featuruing Philippe Sands, Nilklas Frank, Horst von Wachter
This outstanding documentary about history and guilt from author and human rights lawyer Philippe Sands concerns the two elderly sons of prominent officials in Nazi Germany. Sands interviews Niklas Frank and Horst von Wächter, the sons of Hans Frank and Otto Wächter, respectively (among their other grim distinctions) the Nazi governor of occupied Poland and Nazi governor of Galicia in Ukraine. It becomes disturbingly clear that although Frank Jr has come to terms with what his father did, Wächter Jr is still in denial – wriggling, squirming, trying to claim that his father was not personally guilty. Increasingly angry, Sands confronts him with documentary proof that Otto Wächter had substantial administrative responsibility for the slaughter of Ukrainian Jews, including Sands’s own family. It is a chilling demonstration of how the poison of the past can live in the bloodstream of the present. (amended from Peter Bradshaw’s Guardian review)