- David Parkinson
Parky At the Pictures (1/10/2021)
(Reviews of Getting Away With Murder(s); Picture Stories; and 17th London Spanish Film Festival)
Cinemas are open again. Why else would No Time to Die have been released? But not everyone is going to want to sit in the dark being distracted by the prospect of whether everyone else in the auditorium is still behaving as though the social distancing guidelines are still in place.
Consequently, the streaming platforms seem set to keep up their good work a little while longer. In addition to subscription sites like Curzon Home Cinema. MUBI, Netflix and the BFI Player, therefore, the likes of iTunes, Apple TV, Amazon, Sky Store, Virgin, Microsoft, Vimeo, Google Play, Rakuten, BT and Playstation will be staying open for business. Whatever choice you make, stay safe.
GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER(S).
In March 1190, during the reign of Richard the Lionheart, around 150 Jews perished during a pogrom at the King's Tower within York Castle. In punishment, the city's leading families were each fined £66. A century later, Edward I expelled the entire Jewish population from his realm and it was only permitted to return by Oliver Cromwell in the mid-1650s.
As a son of York, documentarist David Nicholas Wilkinson has always been dismayed by the events of the Shabbat Hagadol, 831 years ago. This unease manifests itself in Getting Away With Murder(s), a project that has taken almost two decades to complete and which seeks to understand why 99% of those responsible for carrying out the Holocaust were not even questioned, let alone charged, during the aftermath of the Second World War.
As an aerial shot shows the extent of the vast Auschwitz complex, survivor Arek Hersh recalls arriving there as a 14 year-old boy. Situated within the Greater German Reich, the camp included a slave labour block for the IG Farben chemical plant and the Auschwitz II facility that is better known as Birkenau. Lukasz Lipinski from the Memorial Museum takes Wilkinson in the footsteps of 1.1 million victims, as they take a sombre walk along the path from the station platform to the underground gas chambers that Hersh remembers operating day and night.
Lipinski describes how people were ordered to undress and folded their clothes before taking what they believed would be a shower. However, the were murdered using Zyklon-B gas and their belongings, as well as their gold teeth and the women's hair, were stored in a part of the camp known as `Canada'. Kitty Hart-Moxon was transferred here o sort possessions in 1944 and she remembered Gerhard Palitzsch giving a speech in which he claimed that the only way they would ever leave would be through a chimney.
Wilkinson shows images from photo albums compiled by the Nazis showing new arrivals at Auschwitz and staff relaxing at the nearby leisure centre. The majority of those responsible for committing murder on an industrial scale got away scot free. Some 7000 survived the war, but only around 800 were ever prosecuted for war crimes. One of those who escaped punishment was Josef Mengele, the so-called `Angel of Death', who supposedly returned without harassment to his hometown of Günzberg in the 1950s, while he was hiding in Argentina. He died of a stroke while swimming in Brazil, where his skull is used for medical experiments.
Pointing out that the six million Jews who were killed during the Holocaust equates to the populations of Yorkshire, Maryland and Denmark, Wilkinson wonders why there was so little outrage at this mass extermination after the war. But Dr Dan Plesch, the author of Human Rights After Hitler, claims there was limited interest in addressing the issue during the war itself. Indeed, shortly after he had read a statement denouncing the persecution, Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden ignored a Bulgarian request to help move Jews who would eventually be sent to Treblinka to the British mandated territory of Palestine.
Despite captured members of the Nazi hierarchy going on trial at Nuremberg, those like Sergeant Johann Robert Riss remained at liberty, with Germany even refusing to extradite him after he was found guilty in absentia of participating in the death of 184 civilians at Padule di Fucecchio in Tuscany.
Philip Rubinstein, the former director of the All-Party Parliamentary War Crimes Group, claims that there was opposition within both government and the civil service for war crime trials, while Plesch highlights the role of Ambassador Herbert Pell in opposing Secretary of War Henry Stimson's contention that the Germans shouldn't be prosecuted for the murder of its own citizens lest the United States be held to account for lynchings in the Deep South. Interestingly, Pell was keen to prevent a sense of nostalgic patriotism growing up around Nazism as it had around the Confederacy in his own country.
Research associate Axel Fischer shows Wilkinson around the courtroom in Nuremberg's Palace of Justice, as we learn that attempts were made to counter calls for justice with pleas for pragmatism based on a need to avoid alienating West Germany in the Cold War fight against the Communist threat. But the 21 defendants (three of whom were acquitted) represented the leadership rather than rank and file culprits like Fedor Fedorenko, who had served at Treblinka and was living in retirement in Florida when he was returned at the age of 79 to the Soviet Union to face a firing squad for his crimes in 1987.
Wilkinson visits Benjamin Ferencz, the chief prosecutor at Nuremberg, who also forced superior Telford Taylor into launching the Einsatzgruppen Trial to prosecute the members of the SS paramilitary death squads. He remembers getting angry with those who claimed merely to have been following orders and countering the insistence of Dr Otto Ohlendorf that Germany had been acting in self-defence.
During this trial, Martin Sandberger denied the scale of the charge brought against him and a death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. As he had powerful friends, however, he served only seven years and died in a luxury nursing home at the age of 98 in 2010. Ferencz laments the fact that the dock could only hold 22 and that he was not allowed to prosecute the hundreds he could connect with perpetrating or being an accessory to mass murder.
Dr James Smith, the co-founder of the National Holocaust Centre, who questions why it took so long for British schools to put the Shoah on the curriculum. He also raises Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin's concern that the 150 officers responsible for the Armenian Genocide could be set free in 1921 (largely because gathering evidence and staging a trial would be too expensive), while Soghomon Tehlirian could be tried for the assassination in Berlin of Talaat Pasha, who had been one of the architects of the atrocity.
In a speech to followers at Obersalzburg in the weeks before the invasion of Poland, Adolf Hitler cited the international community's dismissal of the Armenian Genocide in ordering the mass slaughter of the Third Reich's enemies. In all, 11 million would die in 22 countries at the hands of Germany and its collaborators and, yet, the Four Powers (the USA, the UK, the USSR and France) opted to cease prosecutions.
Plesh has no doubts that Cold War panic prompted a shift in attitudes, while Rubinstein cites British communiqués from 1948 and 1950 announcing an end to future trials and even the deportation of suspected war criminals. Fischer raises the Nuremberg Principles that crimes against humanity should not go unpunished. But the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949 saw it become necessary to prove willing participation in mass extermination, which bolstered the reluctance of Australia and Canada to pursue known war criminals who had settled there.
On 24 March 1944, 335 were murdered at the Ardeatine Caves in Rome. Six months later, Pietro Caruso was executed for his part in the crime. SS Captain Erich Priebke had also been present, but had escaped via the ratlines to Argentina. When an interview he gave on American television led to his extradition in the mid-1990s, he was spared prosecution because the statute of limitations had expired and lived to the age of 100 in 2013.
Mary Fulbrook, the Professor of German History at University College, London explains how West and East Germany diverged in the postwar period, with the former experiencing a continuity that meant Nazi sympathisers remaining in post in the police and the legal profession. She even suggests a degree of `renazification' occurred to protect those under suspicion, while the penal code made it difficult to prosecute an individual for contributing to an act of mass murder. People like Walter Rauff, the designer of mobile gas vans that caused around 100,000 deaths, who was helped to escape to South America by Syrian and Israeli intelligence units and died unpunished in Chile in 1984.
Rubinstein reveals that there was no means of prosecuting such individuals until the passage of the War Crimes Act in 1991. He also mentions that poor vetting standards meant that numerous guilty persons were brought to the UK in the late 1940s to plug the gaps in the workforce. Both he and Wilkinson are appalled by leader articles in The Times and The Daily Telegraph in 1987, which call for an end to show trials and claim that Britain prefers the New Testament God of Mercy to the Old Testament God of Vengeance. They stop short of calling such invidious statements anti-Semitic, but concur that they reflect an existing establishment attitude at the time.
Hence Anton Gecas could feel secure running his bed and breakfast in Scotland until 2001 following a career with the National Coal Board after having switched sides after participating in thousands of murders in the Baltic States and Belarus. Bermondsey-based Anthony Sawoniuk was less fortunate, in that, in 1999, he became the sole person to be prosecuted under the 1991 War Crimes Act after working as a ticket collector for British Rail. He died behind bars, although it was claimed he was responsible for many more killings than those on which he was convicted.
A month after this trial, the Metropolitan Police's war crimes unit was closed down and its evidence placed under an embargo. Wilkinson deduces that expense was a factor in the decision and declares that justice has a price tag. Standing beside William Joyce's grave in Galway, he also wonders why the judiciary could allow 400 suspects to live freely while supporting a treason case against the Brooklyn-born, Irish-raised Lord Haw Haw when he wasn't a British citizen and had not only committed no murders, but also hadn't incited any, either.
Unlike Michael Karkoc, who was able to reach 100 in Minnesota after having committed crimes with the Ukrainian Self Defence Legion and the Waffen SS. Wilkinson doesn't mention that Karkoc's son has always denied his father was a Nazi or the author of a Ukrainian memoir admitting to his memberships. But Holocaust researcher Dr Stephen Ankier is adamant about his guilt and Wilkinson meets him in Oldham to hear the cases against two more Self Defence Legion veterans, Ivan Lachmanjuk and Dmytro Wiazewycz.
They died before Ankier could present a case against them So, had the Lincoln-based Mikhail Manchal, who had been present at the massacres at Chlaniow and Wladyslawin, and Ostap Kykawec from Keighley, who had been in the 31st Punitive Division. Moving on to Bradford, Ankier points the finger at Oleksandr Nemerewski, who had been a machine gunner during the Warsaw Uprising, and Ostap Yastruv, who was photographed with Karkoc during the war. They have also died and Ankier wishes is frustrated that they got away with murder because nobody investigated them.
Over a map of other Ankier identifications, Wilkinson lauds the work of a dedicated amateur Nazi hunter. He also suggests the failure to find and question these suspects represents a dark chapter in British legal history and contrast the indifference with the active wartime efforts of Bulgaria, Denmark and Albania (which had a primarily Muslim population) in resisting the Nazi-ordered round-ups.
Rubinstein states that the Nazis dispensed with a legal system predicated on the Ten Commandments and denied victims due process. He feels those who operated under such a system should be judged under it themselves. Known as `the Butcher of Riga', Herberts Cukurs directly participated in the murder of over 30,000 Latvian Jews and once beat to death those who refused to watch a Jewish girl being forcibly raped by a 41 year-old Jewish man. He was assassinated by Mossad agents in Uruguay in 1965. Yet, to some in Latvia, he remains a hero and was the subject of a musical in 2014.
Broadcaster Robin Lustig tells Wilkinson about his grandmother, Ilse Cohn, who was deported from Breslau and transported to Lithuania, where she became one of 2000 people to be murdered on the same day in the Paneriai Forest. Thousands more were forced to strip and endure humiliation before being shot into burial pits at Škede Beach. Lustig and Wilkinson look aghast at the photographs that were taken as souvenirs, only to be used in evidence after they fell into Soviet hands. Yet, virtually none of the locals who participated so eagerly in these crimes were questioned, let alone charged.
The man behind these crimes, Karl Jäger, lived under his own name in Germany for 14 years before being arrested. However, he committed suicide before being convicted, according to Jens Rommel, from the Central Office for the Land Judicial Authorities for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes. His prosecution files are on show in a glass case in a memorial museum. But even cases that came to court, like the Sobibor trial, resulted in acquittals and comparatively light sentences for guilty men like Alfred Ittner, Erich Fuchs (four years each) and Franz Wolf (eight years).
Fulbrook blames this on the number of high-ranking Nazis in Chanceller Konrad Adenauer's postwar government and hails the efforts of socialist judge Fritz Bauer to see justice done. He even tipped off Mossad about Adolph Eichmann's whereabouts as an executive with Mercedes Benz in Argentina. His defence that he was following orders was rejected and he was executed in 1962. Rommel admits that the absence in German law of any notion of a `crime against humanity' made it difficult to secure convictions.
As nations were reluctant to pursue the guilty, individuals like Simon Wiesenthal took it upon themselves. Among the people he tracked down was SS guard Hermine Braunsteiner, who became the first war criminal to be extradited from the United States for her actions at Ravensbrück and Majdanek. But Fulbrook points out how difficult it was to secure convictions, as survivors were often mocked when giving testimony and the burden of proving subjective intent meant that it was not murder to put 300,000 into the gas chambers unless it could be demonstrated that the perpetrator had been sadistic or brutal to a specific individual.
Rommel says the Central Office has led 7600 investigations and had 120,000 defendants in West Germany. But they have managed to secure less than 7000 convictions. Kitty Hart-Moxon highlights the case of Auschwitz guard Gottfried Weise, who had been at liberty for four decades before being put on trial. She recalls giving evidence over two gruelling days and how Weise had escaped to Switzerland before a verdict could be returned. He was only recaptured after requiring medical attention following a stroke.
Only 30 of the 25,000 inhabitant's of Malka Levine's Ukrainian hometown of Volodymyr-Volynskyi survived the war. Many were machine-gunned into pits and she places the blame firmly on Gebietskommissar Wilhelm Westerheide and his secretary Johanna Altvater, who had once thrown sick children out of the third-storey window of a hospital. When they were acquitted for lack of evidence in 1978 and 1982, Levine confronted a judge who informed her that killing Jews was legal at the time.
Beneath the Anthropoid Memorial in Prague, Wilkinson meets Pavlina Zipkova, the head of the Czech Film Commission, who tells him about the attempted assassination of Reichsprotektor Reinhold Heydrich in May 1942. He then joins Filip Petlicka at the memorial to those caught in the reprisal attack of 9 June on the mining village of Lidice. In all, 173 men were shot, while the women were taken to Ravensbrück and the children to Chelmno in Poland, where they were gassed. Seventeen returned, along with 143 women. None of those who hit Heydrich survived the gun battle at the church of St Cyril and Methodius in Prague, where they had been hiding.
As they had been sheltered before the raid in the village of Lezáky, all but two children were murdered by the Nazis, who razed the hamlet to the ground. Of the few charged with the atrocities, Max Rostock had his sentence commuted by the Czech Communist regime, as he was of value to the intelligence community. As Heydrich had succumbed to sepsis, Dr Herta Oberheuser tried to study it by recreating it in healthy people. She served only five of her 20-year sentence and practiced as a GP for many years before her licence was revoked. She died in 1978 at the age of 66.
The massacre took place in the French town of Oradour-sur-Glane in June 1944 on the orders of SS general Heinz Lammerding. Yet only Heinz Barth stood trial for the act, but he was released with a full war pension after serving only 15 years and lived to be 86. Lammerding died a wealthy man in Bad Tölz, after the German authorities had refused to surrender him to France because it had made a treaty deal not to reopen war crimes cases. In fact, the terms had been intended to prevent Germany from reaching verdicts that did not satisfy other nations, but it was twisted to stop those tried in absentia from being deported.
Eichmann's assistant, Alois Brunner, sent 100,000 to ghettos and concentration camps. He lived in West German until 1954, when he fled to Syria and earned a consultancy fee by advising the Ba'ath Party on methods of torture. He either lived to be 89 or 98, as neither death dates in 2001 or 2010 could be verified.
In Vienna, Winfried Garscha, from the DOW Archive, takes Wilkinson to the rear entry of the former SS headquarters in what had once been a luxurious Jewish hotel on Salztorgasse. He reveals that Simon Wiesenthal had chosen the new building erected on the site for his own offices and explains how he had started collecting evidence against the Reich during his last days in Mauthausen. Without him pressing the Austrian courts, there wouldn't have been so many prosecutions before Four Power control ended in 1955. Thenceforth, however, it became so hard to secure a verdict in Austria that it became something of a safe haven.
Returning to the charge sheets narrated by Eileen Atkins that have popped up regularly throughout the film, we hear how Gustav Wagner, who was known as `The Beast' as Sobibor, had been responsible for over 250,000 deaths. Yet, he had been allowed to slip away to Brazil, where he survived until 1980, when he was found with a knife in his chest that his lawyer claimed was the result of suicide. Another alights on Franz Murer, an Austrian serving in the Lithuanian, Vilnius, which was known as `the Jerusalem of the North' and boasted a Jewish population of 80,000. But only 250 survived the war and Murer was sentenced to 25 years' hard labour in the USSR for his role. However, his sentence was cut short and he was acquitted when Wiesenthal re-prosecuted him in 1963 and he lived into his eighties.
Garscha accepts that Austria hid behind the `victim' status that Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt had built into a declaration on how the country would be handled after the war. However, the government opted to ignore the insistence that Austria faced up to the crimes committed after the Anschluss of March 1938 and, consequently, the perpetrators were allowed to evade justice between 1955 and the mid-1980s, when the truth resurfaced during the presidential campaign of former United Nations Secretary General, Kurt Waldheim,
While in Austria, Wilkinson visits the house in Braunau am Inn, where Hitler had been born in 1889. He also sees the muddy puddle that had formed above the bunker where he had committed suicide to avoid facing justice. By the time of his death, however, Hitler had been indicted as a war criminal by the Czechoslovakian government in exile and the charge had been approved by Britain and its allies.
Fulbrook accompanies Wilkinson to the Topography of Terror memorial that was built on the site of the SS Reich Security Main Office that had been a wasteland after the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1961. They also visit the memorial at the Tiergartenstraße headquarters of the Aktion T4 mass euthanasia programme, the Ebertstraße memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism and the Scheidemannstraße to the Sinti and Roma Victims of National Socialism.
She points out how belatedly the LGBTQ+ community was recognised because the same laws persisted into the postwar period and how it was only in 2012 that the plight of the Roma and Sinti peoples was finally acknowledged. They also pause by some of the Stolpersteine that bear the names of Holocaust victims and which featured in Dörte Franke's excellent documentary, Stolperstein (2008). Finally, they reach the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which is situated in what had been the no man's land between East and West Germany. Here, Fulbrook commends the unified state's policy of paying tribute to victims. But she reminds us that it shouldn't disguise the fact that the divided states failed to bring the perpetrators to book when they had the chance.
Following an extract from Benjamin Ferencz's argument at Nuremberg, son
Donald Ferencz expresses his doubts about the US decision to release the vast majority of detainees as part of a 1958 deal with Adenauer to help West Germany resist the Eastern Bloc. But he hopes that Robert Jackson's pronouncements on leaders being held accountable for crimes against peace holds sway to prevent the world ever going to war on this scale again.
Summation speeches agree that not enough was done and that compassion for the Jews soon passed through indifference to worse. But we should be glad that Holocaust triumphalism has never gained traction, even though denial is increasingly prevalent. Over aerial shots of moving monuments, Wilkinson rightly avers that the victors didn't do their duty to the victims after the war and that they face dying for a second time when the last living connections pass on. We claim to be appalled in the modern age, but atrocities continue in all corners of the globe and they do so because our leaders allowed the guilty to get away with murder.
What nobler way could there be to mark the 75th anniversary of the sentencing at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg than the releasing a film of such power, potency and importance? There's even more poetic justice in the fact that it reaches UK cinemas on the day that 96 year-old Irmgard Furchner has been recaptured after fleeing from her trial for allegedly assisting as an 18 year-old secretary in the murder of 11,000 victims at the Stutthof concentration camp.
As he has proved in actualities as different as The First Film (2015) and Postcards From the 48% (2018), David Wilkinson is not one to stint on detail or conviction. The fact that it took three years to make this film across 10 countries testifies to his commitment to a cause that history is in danger of allowing to fade into the truisms that Hollywood has reinforced since it appointed itself the audiovisual chronicler of the Holocaust. With Claude Lanzmann no longer around to force the issue, along with the occasional Eastern European director who is capable of keeping alive the flame lit by their postwar counterparts, it's vital that film-makers of Wilkinson's integrity and gravity continue to seek answers before people forget what the difficult questions are.
It has to be conceded that some of the names in the above section on Stephen Ankier are best guesses. Perhaps they could have appeared onscreen in some form, as they are more likely to stick in the memory than from a passing mention, especially as the names come thick and fast as Ankier and Wilkinson trudge around various northern towns (which, in their own way, are connected with the banality of evil) in pursuit of what keep turning out to be cold cases.
Maybe the time could have been more profitably spent doing into more detail on the corners that were cut and the advice that was ignored from the likes of Sue Ryder in the new government's eagerness to redress the postwar labour shortage? But that's the only minor quibble with an epic study that has been photographed with an assured sense of place and assembled with adroitly chosen archive materials. Let's hope it finds an unabridged berth on television, where it's likely to reach its widest audience.
There's much to enjoy in Rob West's nostalgic documentary about Picture Post. Yet, Picture Stories shows a frustrating lack of curiosity about the magazine's co-founder, its readership and what its content said about Britain during its short lifetime between 1938 and 1957.
The first edition of Picture Post was published on 1 October 1938. Its editor was Stefan Lorant, a Hungarian Jew who had fled Germany after being detained by Chancellor Adolf Hitler just six weeks after coming to power in January 1933. Prior to editing the prestigious picture journal, Münchner Illustrierte Presse, Lorant had followed compatriots Alexander Korda and Michael Curtiz by making films. He claimed to have given Marlene Dietrich her first screen test, but there's no mention of such background details, as the story rushes Lorant from a Nazi jail to London, where he published the bestselling memoir, I Was Hitler's Prisoner.
We hear nothing, either, of Lorant founding the influential satirical magazine, Lilliput, whose contributors ranged from Nancy Mitford, Max Beerbohm and Evelyn Waugh to C.S. Forester, Aleister Crowley and Ronald Searle. It was also published by Edward Hulton and would pass into the editorship of Tom Hopkinson, when Lorant was shamefully denied British citizenship at the outbreak of the Second World War and decamped to the United States.
But we are informed that Picture Post filled a need in a country that was still exhaling after the Munich Agreement. In prioritising pictures over prose, the layouts drew in the eye and reinforced the fact that its reportage was very different from that in the average newspaper or human interest magazine. The conservative Hulton sometimes bridled at Lorant's liberalism, but he had the photo contacts and was given a free hand in deciding content.
As the son of a Hapsburg court photographer, Lorant had grown up with images and his cinematic experience led him to try to capture movement in both the individual pictures and the way they were arranged over a spread. Former Picture Post photographer Thurston Hopkins explains how the Leica camera gave photo-journalists a new freedom, while Kurt Hutton delights in how it enabled him to capture a transient moment.
Academics Amanda Hopkinson (daughter of Tom) and Michael Berkowitz also mention Felix Man, who had fled with Hutton and used anglicised names on the rare occasions when they were credited on the page. Collector James Hayman and documentary photographer Daniel Meadows discuss the value of their `outsider' eyes in making readers take another look at aspects of life they took for granted or didn't even notice.
The images showing life at either end of the social scale confirm the intimacy and humanity of Hutton and Man's work, as well as their ability to set a scene and tell a story. This was crucial to the success of articles that sought to explore and expose life as it is lived (a phrase Graham Greene frequently used in his films reviews in The Spectator around this period in calling for greater realism in British films). However, getting close to subjects wasn't always easy (especially for those shutterbugs with German accents) and documentary photographer Mark Richards recalls the backlash following a Hutton piece on Wigan that resulted in the mayor trying to censor pictures.
Picture editor Colin Jacobson guides a Hutton sequence from January 1939 about Alfred Smith, a Peckham man who hasn't had a job in three years and is trying to raise four children on unemployment benefit. The layout recalls the social conscience shorts produced earlier in the decade by the British Documentary Movement, but West either doesn't spot the connection or opts to ignore it, which is a shame, as Lorant didn't operate in a vacuum and would have been aware of the way pioneers like John Grierson were trying to inform and influence.
Another chronicler of the class divide was Bill Brandt and documentary photographer Paul Reas reveals how he cheerfully posed members of his own family to get the desired effect in shots that bolstered the thematic thread of the story. Berkowitz enthuses about Lorant's readiness to hire women like Elisabeth Chat, Edith Tudor-Hart, Edith Kay and Gerti Deutsch (who was Amanda Hopkinson's mother). Yet, despite the valuable work Picture Post `aliens' were doing, Hutton was interned on the Isle of Man and Lorant's friendship with Winston Churchill opened no doors.
Under deputy editor Tom Hopkinson, Picture Post followed Lorant's vision for its purpose during wartime. We hear the text from an article from 26 October 1940, with photographs by Zoltan Glass, about a man from Mars landing in London during the Blitz and watching the public response in a Tube station. Bert Hardy also remembers snapping firemen dealing with a blaze and getting a rare photo byline.
As Meadows and fellow photographer David Hurn points out, however, Hopkinson was also thinking of the peace and did much to pave the way for the Labour landslide in 1945 by trailing the reforms Prime Minister Clement Attlee intended to introduce. We see the editor in action in Eric Cripps's short, Picture Paper (1946), and hear from employees and modern speakers what a cultured and caring man he was.
We leap to 1949 for a Bert Hardy story about life in Elephant and Castle, as he explains how walking to assignments meant he could always be on the lookout for a shot. Photographer Homer Sykes swoons over the imagery, but no one says a word about A.C. Lloyd, who wrote the text that is freely used over the spreads and contributes enormously to the gritty poetry of the item.
There's a look of Brassaï (aka Gyula Halász, another Hungarian who opted for Paris) to the nocturnal shots of London that prompt street photographer Nick Turpin to celebrate his art. We hear from Humphrey Spender and Grace Robertson, as they made the most of poor printing paper to capture the essence of places across the country. Spender recalls the mayor of Newcastle being furious with his depiction of Tyneside and demanded a second shoot that showed only what he wanted shown (even though he failed to realise he was slyly being made to look an ass).
Documentary photographer Sirkka Liisa Konttinen complains about the gender bias of such Picture Post stories. But Meadows extols the virtues of Haywood Magee's `The Herring Girl Ladies' from 1948. He also commends a 1951 article on London and tosses in the names of credited snappers Raymond Kleboe and Charles Hewitt, without showing us any of the work or telling us much about them or Carl Sutton, David Steen and John Chillingworth, who are given a passing mention.
In marvelling over the discretion of a Thurston Hopkins street games spread, Peter Dench laments that it's no longer possible to photography children playing. But he says the approach to taking documentary shots remains largely unchanged. Charlie Phillips dissects the Bert Hardy images accompanying an article on racial prejudice in 1950s Britain. Magee photographed and Hilde Marchant provided the text for another entitled `Thirty Thousand Colour Problems' about Caribbean immigrants. Phillips (who arrived in the UK around this time) is angry by the prejudice inherent in these and another spread by Thurston Hopkins.
A caption recalls the clash between Hopkinson and Hulton over a 1950 article on the treatment of prisoners in the Korean War. With his removal, the tone of the magazine changed and more cheesecake pictures began to appear. Pat Stewart remembers sitting on some seaside railings for Bert Hardy, who caught her skirt blowing up. To balance this, Robertson reminisces about the charabanc trip she took with some working-class mothers from Bermondsey determined to make the most of a boozy day out. Anna Fox applauds the naturalism and joy in the images, which would have made people smile in tough times.
With television encroaching on to Picture Post's turf, sales began to decline. But it could still pull off exclusives like the item on Roberta Cowell, the former Spitfire pilot and racing driver who became the first known British trans woman to undergo gender reassignment surgery. But the finances no longer added up and Hulton took the cowardly option of telling the staff of Picture Post's closure through a TV news announcement. The last edition on 1 June 1957 used the same cover as the first.
The influence continued, however, with Meadows operating out of a double-decker bus studio from 1973 after seeing a Magee piece about a war hero living in a vehicle. When he revisited some of the places he had worked decades later, he discovered that one of his models, Susan Gatesy, was Stefan Lorant's niece. It's a charming way to bring the story full circle.
Indeed, this is a film whose affection for its subject is evident at every turn. The speakers are enthusiastic and reverential, while the rostrum work is first rate in showing how the Picture Post style evolved from the poetic social realism of the early years, through the noirish depiction of the war and ensuing austerity, to the colourful glamour of the later pin-ups.
Yet, by adopting a greatest hits approach, so many aspects of the magazine are left unexplored. West provides far too little context in neglecting to discuss how newspapers used photography at the time and what competition Picture Post faced from the likes of The Illustrated London News, which was edited for much of this period Bruce Ingram, and Tit-Bits, which had started carrying risqué snaps in 1939?
The contributors glibly refer to mass circulation without coming up with actual numbers or how the magazine was consumed. It cost 4d compared to 1d for the Daily Mirror and, at a time when many were either unemployed or scraping by on an average £4 16s 1d a week, one is left to wonder who could have afforded that sum on a regular basis and who made do with perusing the pages at their local library. But, while it's implied by the focus on everyday stories that the readership was largely working-class, nothing is said about Picture Post's status with the rest of the population and how this changed in the post-Hopkinson years.
Similarly, much is made of Lorant's film background and how his layouts had a sense of pace. But little is said about the competition from newsreels (which had their own dedicated cinemas in the UK's larger towns and cities) and the work of the British Documentary Movement, whose influence on the street reportage feels pronounced. Moreover, in vaunting the achievements of Picture Post's photographers, far too little credit is given to the reporters whose prose was both erudite and accessible. Given that the likes of H.G. Wells and J.B. Priestley wrote for the magazine, this feels as much of an oversight as a mention of the changing face and diminishing integrity of the photographic image into our age of selfies and shape-shifting software.
17TH LONDON SPANISH FILM FESTIVAL.
The London Spanish Film Festival returns for a 17th edition at the Ciné Lumière in South Kensington between 22-26 September. Among the titles on show are Isabel Coixet's Nieve en Benidorm/It Snows in Benidorm, Amalia Ulman's El Planeta/Planet, Cesc Gay's Sentimental/The People Upstairs, and Javier Tolentino's Un Blues para Teheran/Tehran Blues.
David Pérez Sañudo makes a solid start to his feature career with Ane Is Missing. Set in the Euskal Herria in 2009, it centres on Lide (Patricia López Arnaiz), a night-time security guard for Zadorra at a high-speed train project that has aroused a great deal of local opposition. When her teenage daughter, Ane (Jone Laspiur), disappears, Lide is informed of her recent bad behaviour by the school principal and the father of her discarded best friend. But she only starts to take the situation seriously when she finds videos of Ane's activism on her computer.
Forcing ex-husband Fernando (Mikel Losada) to join the search, Lide discovers that Ane's photography teacher got her involved with the Youth House that protests for Basque independence. This leads them to Bayonne in France, where several leads turn to dead ends and they are none the wiser what Ane has been up to and where she has gone.
Shortly after arriving home, she turns up on Lide's doorstep and Fernando accompanies them to a clinic for Ane to have an abortion. On their return Peio (David Blanka) accuses Ane of stealing anti-HTS funds and Lide bundles her away. She denies it and Lide supports her and, next day, clears up her problems at school and with her best friend. Lide even loses her job so she can celebrate Ane's 18th birthday.
However, Ane steals her ID pass for the site and uses it to firebomb the security office at the instigation of her lover, Iker (Erik Probanza). When she fails to keep their birthday plans, Lide tracks Ane down to an illegal rave and is relieved to see her get away when it's raided by the police. She gets home to an empty flat and only lays the breakfast table for one. When someone rings the doorbell, however, she leaps to her feet, as, for all their problems, Ane will always be her child.
Held together by a pugnacious performance by Patricia López Arnaiz, this is an unflinching study of parenthood, employment and principle that doesn't particularly care if the audience finds the characters resistible. Everyone seems to have an axe to grind and the anger that pulses through the picture ably conveys the personal and political issues at stake. That said, Pérez Sañudo and co-writer Marina Parés Pulido presume a good deal of background knowledge and tend to favour slanging matches over discussions.
Victor Benavides's photography throbs with a sense of place that is driven home by Lluis Murua's punchy editing. But what stands out is the maturity of the direction, as the story veers from domestic drama to quest thriller and political tract in showing how difficult it is becoming in the modern world for life to have meaning.
Oscar Aibar has been directing for over a quarter of a century. Not many in this country will have seen Atolladero (1995), Flying Saucers (2003), Dance Machine (2006), The Great Vasquez (2010) or El Bosc (2012). But anyone who sees the fact-based thriller, The Replacement, will be keen to catch up with them, as Aibar returns to features after a decade away working on the TV series, Cuéntame (2013-2021), which also focuses on Spain in the immediate aftermath of the Franco dictatorship.
In 1982, Andrés Expósito (Ricardo Gómez) arrives in Dénia to replace a cop who had died suddenly with needle marks in his arm. He is paired with Juan Bonfill (Pere Ponce), who is disparagingly nicknamed `Columbo' by his boss, Barea (Joaquín Climent). As nothing ever happens in their sleepy coastal backwater, Columbo rarely goes out on patrol. But he is detailed to keep an eye on Klaus Dreyer (Frank Feys) and the German colony that lives in considerable luxury on the waterfront.
Bored during a Sunday trip to the beach, Andrés spots a couple who had been fishing furtively near the Dreyer property. When he sees them trying to flee the narrow beach road, he shoots the tyres and the male and female occupants, with the latter cursing him for his treachery.
In the melée, Columbo shoots himself in the foot and Dr Eva Vidal (Vicky Luengo) tells Andrés that she is worried about his lung X-ray. She also confides that his predecessor was stabbed through the heart by a stiletto and that the needle marks were made after death. As the case was immediately hushed up, she came to the conclusion that someone had something to hide. Station secretary Marcia (Cristina Perales) thinks the same thing and urges Andrés to examine the Boada file before it mysteriously disappears.
He becomes suspicious when Klaus arranges for him and wife, Dolores (Nuria Herrero), to move into a luxury beachside apartment. He is also presented with a gold watch at the Dreyer Hotel in the presence of an old man revered by the others (Heinz-Peter Deppe). Moreover, Andrés is toasted by his boss at a Frankist bar and feels embarrassed when the owner, Jorge (Antonio Bachiller) clicks his heels and salutes.
Having been discharged after being informed that he has terminal cancer,
Columbo joins Andrés on a jaunt to a brothel frequently once a month by Boada. One of the girls, Miriam (Marta Poveda), tells him that Boada used to bring her presents of heroin from Bilbao and he asks her to show Columbo a good time, as he needs cheering up. Outside, they bump into Jorge and his pals and Andrés is surprised when Columbo reveals that Rafa (Pol López) is his son.
The Dreyers invite Andrés and Dolores to a garden party and, while she is happy to schmooze with Käthe (Isabel Blanco) and Jürgen (Christian Stamm), he is disturbed to see so many older men in Nazi uniforms celebrating Adolf Hitler's birthday. Dolores is upset when he tries to leave, but they can't find their daughter and Andrés is dismayed to find her sitting on the head Nazi's lap, as he diagnoses a slight problem with her knee.
Rushing to Columbo's houseboat, Andrés learns that the Dreyer Hotel is a hideout for war criminals, including Adolf Eichmann's deputy and the head of the Black Tulips in Holland. From the photos on the cabin wall, Andrés recognises Aribert Heim, who was the sadistic camp doctor at Mauthausen, who used to enjoy injecting victims with petrol to watch them die in agony. Andrés had discovered that traces of petrol had been found in Boada's body and he knows the Germans must have been responsible for his murder.
As the World Cup starts, Jürgen's Promosol property company bulldozes a Gypsy settlement and Andrés realises that Boada had been bringing heroin to get the younger members of the community hooked to give them a bad name. Moving on to the boat so he can visit Columbo after he's taken back into hospital, Andrés sleeps with Eva and tells her about the German quarter and the fact that local Frankists went out of their way to help them.
The chief warns him off digging into matters that don't concern him, but Andrés is not one to follow orders. He asks Eva to accompany him on a visit to Boada's widow, Rosario (Amparo Fernández). She lives in the lap of luxury on her savings and claims to have no insights into her husband's corruption. Columbo is close to death and tells Andrés that he knows Exposito was the name given to the orphaned children of murdered socialists and he urges him to use his dossiers to bring the Germans to book.
Andrés discovers that the strangers he shot were Mossad agents spying on Heim and that Rosario is living on the reward money offered by the Simon Wiesenthal Foundation. Boada sold out his paymasters because they took him for granted and he wanted a taste of their high life. Eva urges Andrés to drop the case, as it can only end badly. But he insists he has a duty to bring them down.
In the present day, Eva (Susi Sánchez) tells a reporter named Raquel (Bruna Cusí) that the bar owner gunned down some Italian fans on the day of the World Cup final. As Andrés was drinking at the same bar, he chased him into the hills. When he overturns his car, the fascist tries to inject him with petrol, but Andrés stabs him in the leg with Boada's flick knife and he confesses while in the police cell. While there was enough evidence to arrest Klaus, the trial collapsed because Columbo's evidence was lost in a fire on his boat.
Raquel discovers that Dolores kept their daughter away from him and that he turned to drink. She regrets that they drifted apart and a cutaway suggests Andrés saw her glad-handing Klaus at a funfair and that her meteoric career rise was repayment for a favour. On being told Andrés is now working as a mechanic at the marina, Raquel tracks him down and reveals herself to be his daughter.
A fascinating story is told with aplomb by Oscar Aibar, as the fissures in 1970s Spanish society are laid bare. As the narrative is only based on actual events, it has to be presumed that only the existence of fugitive Nazis on the Mediterranean coast is the only factual element. But Aibar and co-scenarist María Luisa Calderón handle the revelations so deftly that it remains difficult to know who Andrés can trust right up to the devastating last twist.
Ricardo Gómez gives a gusty display as the Madrileño in the sticks, although it might have been nice to know a bit more about the background that brings him to Dénia and why his marriage is so unhappy. Pere Ponce is typically engaging as the figure of fun who knows more than he lets on, although not enough is said about his estrangement from his son and why he knew so little about Boada's activities when he was so clued up about the German contingent.
The climactic assault on the Italian fans and the identification of the killer strains credibility a tad, while the vision of Nazi hell that Andrés experiences after being injected smacks of melodramatic miscalculation. But, with Alejandro de Pablo's photography being as canny as Uxua Castelló's production design, this is a thoughtful treatise on La Transición and the cracks it sought to conceal.
If Charlie Kauffman and Spike Jonze combined with David Lynch and Woody Allen to recast Groundhog Day as an episode of The Twilight Zone, the result may look a little like Juan Cavestany's Un effecto óptico/An Optical Illusion. Previously known for Poor Quality People (2008), I Have Boats (2010) and People in Places (2013) and a segment in the portmanteau, Esa sensación (2016), Cavestany refuses to play by the rules of mainstream cinema. But this offbeat delight leaves one longing for more.
Keen to escape the sensation of empty nest syndrome, Burgos couple Teresa (Carmen Machi) and Alfredo (Pepón Nieto) fly to New York for the holiday of a lifetime. Checking into the Hotel Wellington, they are somewhat underwhelmed by their first stroll through the empty streets and the steel and glass constructions that enclose them. But when the Statue of Liberty fails to live up to expectations, the couple begin to wonder if they are really in the Big Apple at all.
Spooked by a short tunnel during a walk around what they take to be Central Park, Alfredo and Teresa walk through the Metropolitan Museum of Art without looking at many of the pictures. They leave a phone message for daughter Isabel (Lucía Juárez), who seems to be being followed by a wolf in the woods. After lunch, they decide against going shopping and return to the hotel. They are lying on the bed, when they hear themselves returning laden with bags. Yet, there's no one else in the room when they have a lie down and Alfredo is too tired to fool around.
The next day, he forgets the guide book and they take the Subway to an area that looks just like Burgos. Teresa is uneasy, especially when she sees the shirtless black man (Boubacar Sakho) who had been lurking beneath their window. But Alfredo insists they are in New York and should be enjoying themselves. Having been forced to walk up many flights of stairs because the lift is broken, she is surprised to see the room filled with bags, while he clearly remembers them going shopping. She retreats into the bathroom, where she has hidden a supply of mortadella from home.
He catches her munching away after dozing off on the bed and decides it would be better if they went home, as Teresa isn't comfortable in New York. They watch TV and don't seem to notice that the shows are all old-fashioned, including one about a girl going to college and bidding farewell to her parents. Unable to sleep, however, Alfredo notices Isabel at the end of the bed and she informs him that they are trapped inside a flawed film that is about to begin again.
Sure enough, the story begins again, but with slight differences. Alfredo takes the lingering look at Isabel's room before they set off, while they stay at Hotel Claridge, which has a very different view. Indeed, it's clear they are in New York, as they stroll through Time Square and take the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. Moreover, the pictures are different in the museum, while the wolf watches them pass in Central Park and Isabel is stalked by José Maria (Luis Bermejo), who had earlier confronted Alfredo on the sheep farm where he works.
Following a row over lunch, they go shopping and return to the room without seeing their alter egos making out on the bed. As they hug, however, Teresa sees a cameraman over Alfredo's shoulder and wonders if they are really where they think they are. The next day, they go off piste and wind up in a different part of Burgos and even bump into José Maria (who pretends not to see them). On returning to the room, they find the shopping and agree to return the impulse buys - but can't remember where they bought them.
Lying on the bed, Teresa sees shapes on the ceiling and concludes they're an optical illusion. Alfredo wakes to see Isabel, who reveals that they can't escape because they are in a film that has already been edited. Because of the glitches, however, it will keep seeming different each time and we plunge into a third variation.
This one seems to take place in a past New York, in which the Empire State Building continues to dominate the skyline and the local movie theatre is playing a Richard Cunha double bill of Frankenstein's Daughter and Missile to the Moon (both 1958). Alfredo realises they have been here before, only in not quite the same way. When they pose for two Japanese tourists to take their photo in front of a stand-in Statue of Liberty, the image shows a completely different couple - an American man (Paul Hanna), who has encountered them on each hotel landing on their arrival, and his missing wife (Susana Sanabria).
It's dark all the time and Teresa sees someone hovering behind Alfredo when he loiters in the mouth of the park tunnel. She wonders if what they are experiencing has anything to do with Isabel, who is seen trying to escape from a man in the woods. On waking in the night, Alfredo sees Isabel and watches her vanish in the gap between two vending machines, as the shirtless black man spies on him from across the corridor.
As the fourth iteration starts, Alfredo tells Teresa he doesn't want to go and stands in front of the TV showing Isabel being pursued through the woods by José Maria. This time it's Teresa who has drafted the itinerary and she coaxes Alfredo through the tunnel, which gives way to a magical Manhattan that affords them the full tourist experience. They even get to see the Twin Towers and, when they go out without the guide book, they get chased by the black man with a gun and only get away when he slips on a banana peel.
Teresa is thrilled because it seems so like the movies and clambers on top of Alfredo when he gets aroused in bed. While his wife sleeps, he watches a TV screen showing them being welcomed home by Isabel. On the plane back, Teresa asks her elderly mother (Lola Cordón) where they are and she is relieved to hear they are nearly home. But the view out of the window isn't clouds, but trees and we are left to wonder where the travellers will fetch up next.
Accompanied for almost its 80-minute entirety by a Nick Powell score that reinforces the movie fairytale feel, this is an off-kilter delight that revels in its own sense of self-reflexive mischief. Cleverly photographed by Javier Bermejo and edited by Raúl de Torres, the action consistently disconcerts, as Alfredo and Teresa try to make both sense and the most of a visit that has no intention of conforming to tourist type.
Carmen Machi and Pepón Nieto excel as the hapless couple, who have drifted apart to the extent that they can no longer have a frank discussion about what the heck is happening to them. It's uncertain whether Machi's blonde hair is supposed to change length within sequences, but it adds to the intrigue as much as the switches between Nieto's red and yellow trousers. Epitomising the meta-playfulness is the run through the Met in a sly homage to Jean-Luc Godard's Bande à Part (1964). Yet, while this is very much an affectionate comment on cinema and its power to transport the audience, the deceptively deep Cavestany also comments wittily on the growing uniformity of the urban experience, holiday expectations, domestic ennui and the pain of parental parting,
After 15 years in television, Toño López makes his feature bow with the madcap thriller, Cuñados/Brothers-in-Law. The pair in question are ex-basketball star Sabonis (Xosé A. Touriñan) and builder Eduardo (Miguel de Lira). They are married to Peque (María Vázquez) and Cuca (Iolanda Muíños), whose cop sister, Mati (Eva Fernández), lives with their recently widowed mother, Aurelia (Mela Casal), who is proud that the family winery in Ourense is about to re-open under Cuca and that Peque's daughter, Antía (Antía Touriñán), is about to make her first communion.
Things start to go wrong during a family lunch, when Peque announces that she wants a divorce. Then, Eduardo gets a demand for €250,000 compensation because the wood he used on a care home that has just burnt down didn't have a fireproofing certificate. He bought the timber from Alicia Zamora (Paku Granxa), a businesswoman who denies any responsibility and threatens to ruin Eduardo if he tries to damage her reputation. So, when her brother-in-law, Modesto (Federico Pérez Rey), mocks Eduardo for being a sap, Sabonis bundles him into the boot of the car in a bid to force Alicia to co-operate with the insurance company.
Initially, Eduardo is aghast. But he refuses to take the blame and jeopardise Cuca's wine launch. Similarly, Sabonis, wants to win back Peque and hopes to impress her by organising the communion celebration by himself. So, they take Modesto to the vineyard - after collecting Sabonis's other daughter, Moraima (the scene-stealing Moraima Duarte) - and use his phone to make their ransom demand. Alicia ridicules them and Modesto (who now knows their identity) warns them that she will never pay.
However, Alicia just happens to have had her phone tapped by Mari as part of an ongoing investigation. But the line goes cold while Modesto gets drunk with Sabonis and Eduardo when they bring him some food and he recognises the former from his playing days. He promises not to turn them in, but reiterates that his sister-in-law won't pay a cent to get him back. When Mati's unit trace the call to Alicia to the winery, she has the trio arrested. But Modesto is true to his word and even proposes a plan to fleece Alicia and her Portuguese partner, Viriato Oliveira (Nuno J. Loureiro), of the €1 million she has earmarked for a crooked imported octopus deal.
Despite Sabonis being convinced (to the extent he brings Modesto to the vineyard to help out with the sulphate spraying), Eduardo has misgivings, especially as he is aware that Mati senses something is amiss. But she is more focussed on the cash that Alicia is going to pay Oliveira at a rendezvous that happens to coincide with the big basketball promotion game. Thus, Sabonis is distracted when he's supposed to be helping Eduardo attack Modesto while he's acting as Alicia's bagman.
However, there's a change of plan and she sends her lawyer, Alfonso (Manolo Cortés), with the cash and keeps Modesto where she can see him. Alfonso fights off Sabonis and Eduardo with a golf club and arrives at the restaurant just as Mati gets the audio evidence she needs and Ourense wins the big game. Amidst the chaos, Alicia tosses the bag out of the window and nobody notices it until it's found in the river and locals go searching for loose notes.
The hapless trio are arrested again, but they talk their way out of trouble and Mati is forced to release they. Sabonis drives them back to the restaurant and cracks a drainpipe, as we see a flashback of him being hit on the head with the bag during the police raid and using his basketball skills to shoot several bundles of cash into the rainwater head. It comes to €640,000 and everyone is friends again by the end of Antía's big day.
Highly amusing swipe at Galician masculinity that provides a fine showcase for the talented trio of Miguel de Lira, Xosé A. Touriñan and Federico Pérez Rey. The basis of the plot comes from Mario Zampi's Too Many Crooks (1959), in which Brenda De Banzie takes control of George Cole's gang after charlatan husband Terry-Thomas refuses to stump up a ransom fee. But Araceli Gonda's screenplay works in several contemporary themes, from the effects of the recession to fat cat corruption and the growing assertiveness of Spanish womanhood.
Little is seen of Peque and Cuca, as their embattled husbands forge an unholy alliance that Mati is bent on busting, even though she doesn't seem to have much against either of her brothers-in-law. This aspect of the story requires considerable convolution, especially where the winery is concerned. But López embraces the absurdity and keeps things moving at a sufficient click to distract the audience from the more obvious bumps in the road, which usually involves having Touriñan (who's like a cross between Colin Firth and Will Ferrell) do something daft.