- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 14, 2003

Undeniable talent

“Leni Riefenstahl, who died [last] week at age 101 … had such remarkable gifts — intelligence, energy, and an eye for visual images — that her talent cannot be disregarded, even though she put it at the service of a genocidal dictatorship. …

“[I]t was her pioneering 1935 film ‘Triumph of the Will,’ a melange of documentary and propaganda about the 1934 Nazi party rally in Nuremberg that was revolutionary in its cinematography and editing, which established her as a powerful and innovative filmmaker.

“The opening scene, in which Hitler descends from the clouds in an airplane … portrayed the dictator as a demigod. …

“Ms. Riefenstahl had such charisma, intelligence, and talent that she won over many who were anything but Nazis. …

“No wonder Jodie Foster is working on a film about her. It’s unlikely to be the last. Leni Riefenstahl, with her strength, talent, complexities, and problems, will continue to fascinate in the years to come — probably for longer than her 101 years.”

Jonathan Petropoulos, writing on “Leni Riefenstahl, Coy Propagandist Of the Nazi Era,” Thursday in the Wall Street Journal

Pitiful protesters

“If our Congress or our executive mansion had been immolated [on September 11, 2001], would some people still be talking as if there was a moral equivalence between the United States and the Taliban? Would they still be prattling as if the whole thing was an oblique revenge for the Florida recount? Of course they would. They don’t know any other way to talk or think. …

“[A] book … written by Gore Vidal and flaunted at ‘anti-war’ rallies … argues that it was essentially George Bush who helped organize and anticipate the atrocity. That’s a level of degeneration unplumbed by any other faction. So, the pitiful peaceniks are the chief moral losers, whichever way you slice it.

“When confronted with a lethal and determined enemy, one has a responsibility to give short shrift to demoralizing and sinister nonsense.”

Christopher Hitchens, writing on “How Not to Remember 9/11,” Thursday at www.msnbc.com

‘Mugged by reality’

“‘Death Wish’ … is a remarkable social artifact, a valuable record of the day before yesterday — 1974 — when New York and many other American cities seemed in part ungovernable. …

“Bronson plays a successful Manhattan architect, a mild-mannered conscientious objector from the Korean War, and a proponent of gun control. In other words, he’s a ‘bleeding-heart liberal,’ as a colleague labels him during an early exchange that manages with remarkable economy to alight on all the problems of the day: rising crime, white flight, high taxes, useless police. Bronson’s character is untouched by these troubles until muggers … break into his apartment, rape his daughter and murder his wife. The cops tell him there’s virtually no chance the perpetrators will ever be found: ‘In the city, that’s just the way it is.’ …

“The Police Commissioner in the movie and the critics outside it both called Bronson a ‘vigilante.’ But, in fact, [the movie] is scrupulous about showing Bronson only shooting those who first threaten him. …

“It’s said that a neoconservative is a liberal who’s been mugged. That’s what Bronson gave us in ‘Death Wish’: a liberal mugged by reality, in one of the defining documents of a wretched decade.”

Mark Steyn, writing on “Mugged Liberal,” Sept. 6 in the Spectator

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