Yesterday I went with Michael’s family to be a part of their church directory portrait. I had planned to wear a sundress for the picture but wound up wearing one of the brightly colored plaid shirts I favor instead. The whole process was rather agonizing in large part because Michael’s cat, Carmen, was also participating. She behaved herself about as well as can be expected: that is, she meowed and complained during the drive, then repeatedly refused to look at the camera like she was supposed to. But on the plus side she didn’t claw anyone or make a mess.
As I recall there was one portrait of all five of us together, one portrait of Michael’s parents, one portrait of Michael and me, and one portrait of Michael, me and Carmen. I was tasked with holding her and it was difficult to do so and smile at the same time. But I think the pictures turned out well. They’ll arrive in a few weeks and I’d like to compare them to the last church portrait, from five years ago.
I’ve been watching Shoah, Claude Lanzmann’s nine-hour documentary on the Holocaust. In segments, obviously. To say I am enjoying the movie would probably not be proper, but I am certainly intrigued by it. So far Lanzmann has interviewed a bunch of survivors and witnesses, and two low-level Nazis, both convicted war criminals. One didn’t want to talk. The other was willing and actually quite honest and open about his experiences, speaking freely (though without remorse) on the condition that Lanzmann not use his name. He was unaware that Lanzmann was secretly recording the interview with a hidden camera — and of course, he did identify the man for the film. And I thought: Sucker!
Michael and I had a spirited discussion about it last night. I told him what I had seen so far and he feels Lanzmann was wrong, very wrong, to videotape his interview without the person’s knowledge or consent. A violation of journalistic ethics, he says. Which is true. But, well, the man was a Nazi and I can’t muster up a lot of sympathy for him.
As for the other Nazi war criminal — the guy worked at a bar, serving drinks, and couldn’t just walk away even though he dearly wanted to. The film showed him handing out beers while at the same time trying to hide his face from the camera, and repeatedly saying “I don’t want to talk about this” and “I don’t want to answer that question” in response to Lanzmann’s “Do you remember the bodies? What they smelled like?” and such other remarks. When I watched it I thought: You sniveling little coward, look up at the camera and face up to what you saw and did.
Michael thinks the man’s refusal to talk about the war does not make him a coward and that Lanzmann was being a bully by essentially ambushing him at work. He says “ambush journalism” is also an ethics violation. Perhaps it is. But, well, again, this guy was a Nazi.
It’s food for thought anyway. And for what it’s worth, Shoah wasn’t released until years after both these men were dead.
I look forward to watching the rest. I’ve got to get it done as quickly as possible so I can send the discs back to Netflix. They won’t send any more movies until I do.