The case against Klaus Barbie’s lawyer
Gerald Aaron reviews the latest releases, including a documentary on the man who defends terrorists and Nazis
THE SUBJECT of Barbet Schroeder’s unsettling film is a cinema staple — the smug, limelight-seeking “star” lawyer. What makes Terror’s Advocate so chilling is that its “star” — French lawyer Jacques Vergès — is a real-life attorney notorious for his infamous clients.
Vergès came to prominence during the 1960s Algerian war when he defended — and later married — cafe bomber Djamila Bouhired. He went on to defend terrorists of every type, including Carlos the Jackel, but is best known for acting for Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie.
Schroeder’s vividly lays out the evidence in the form of powerful news footage and interviews without didactisism, allowing audiences to make up their own minds about Vergès.
IT IS necessary to concentrate to follow Nicolas Klotz’s intriguing drama since the director slowly builds his complex story without resorting to cliché. But the effort is worth it. This is a riveting narrative which, scripted from Francois Emmanuel’s book, La Question Humaine, draws parallels between the profit-driven inhumanities of contemporary corporate life and the brutalities of the Holocaust.
Human resources psychologist Simon Kessler (Mathieu Almaric) works in the French headquarters of a German multinational corporation and has spent seven years selecting new employees and “downsizing” superfluous executives. He is chosen by managing director Karl Rose (Jean-Pierre Kalfon) to report on the mental state of CEO Mathias Jüst (Michael Lonsdale), an investigation that traumatically reveals to Simon that the company for which he works once supplied equipment for the extermination of Jews to the Nazis. Almaric gives a powerful, multilayered performance, veteran Lonsdale is superb too in a disquieting but ultimately rewarding examination of unspeakable aspects of human behaviour.
AN ENTERTAINING variation on the teenage coming-of-age movie. Seventeen-year-old rich kid Charlie Bartlett (Anton Yelchin) achieves his dream of popularity by dealing out prescription drugs to his schoolmates. Since he is not obviously an admirable character, it is to Yelchin’s credit, allied with Jon Poll’s deft direction, that Charlie emerges as eminently likeable.