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October 12, 2008

Total Eclipse

ave you seen the new film Total Eclipse?

You won't want to miss it! Read the review:

Every so often someone in Hollywood uses his power to break the movie colony's rules. Consider this year's Total Eclipse. Odd as it may seem, this is the first serious American film set against the background of the 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact, the deal that allied Europe's two totalitarian powers against the West and helped plunge the world into war. With an ally on the eastern front, Hitler sent his Panzers west while Stalin helped himself to the Baltic states and invaded Finland. A film like this could easily have turned out as big a didactic dud as the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's 1982 bomb, Inchon, with Laurence Olivier as Gen. Douglas MacArthur. But this time the verisimilitude of the script, carried by some outstanding performances, is the source of the film's dramatic power.

Dustin Hoffman's persuasive portrayal of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin obviously emerges from his close study of how power and perversity converged in the dictator. Likewise, Jurgen Prochnow sparkles as Hitler's foreign minister, Joachim Von Ribbentrop, and so does Robert Duvall as Vyacheslav Molotov, his Soviet counterpart. Duvall's delivery of Molotov's line that "fascism is a matter of taste" is a key moment, and deserves at least as much admiration as Duvall's famous quip from Apocalypse Now about the smell of napalm in the morning. The Molotov speech has drawn some objections for being over the top, but it was not invented by screenwriter William Goldman (Marathon Man); it's an actual quote.

The sheer unexpectedness of the film is almost as shocking as its content. In one of the film's more chilling sequences, the Soviets hand over a number of German Communists, Jews who had taken refuge in Moscow, to the Gestapo. Modern audiences may find this surprising, but that incident too is taken from the historical record. Indeed, former KGB officials are credited as advisers on the film, whose cast also includes some of their actual victims.

There has simply been nothing like it on the screen in six decades. It has taken that long for moviegoers to see Soviet forces invading Poland and meeting their Nazi counterparts. Audiences would likely be similarly surprised by cinematic treatments of Cuban prisons, the Khmer Rouge genocide, and the bloody campaigns of Ethiopia's Stalinist Col. Mengistu, all still awaiting attention from Hollywood.

Total Eclipse is rated PG-13 for violence, particularly graphic in some of the mass murder scenes, images of starving infants from Stalin's 1932 forced famine in the Ukraine, and the torture of dissidents. Director Steven Spielberg (Schindler's List) deftly cuts from the Moscow trials to the torture chambers of the Lubyanka. More controversial are the portrayals of American communists during the period of the Pact. They are shown here picketing the White House, calling President Roosevelt a warmonger, and demanding that America stay out of the "capitalist war" in Europe. Harvey Keitel turns in a powerful performance as American Communist boss Earl Browder, and Linda Hunt brings depth to Lillian Hellman, who, when Hitler attacks the USSR in September of 1939, actually did cry out, "The motherland has been invaded."

Painstakingly accurate and filled with historical surprises, this film is so refreshing, so remarkable, that even at 162 minutes it seems too short.

Read the whole thing. H/T Instapundit.

Posted by witnit at October 12, 2008 9:23 AM

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Where can I find a copy? It is not listed on Amazon, Netflix or even IMDB (which up till now seemed to have everything).

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It's one of Hollywood's Missing Movies.

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