The Night Porter (1974)

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We’ve all had our trials. Now we are cured and live in peace with ourselves. The infamous S&M movie about a Nazi (Dirk Bogarde) who posed as a doctor in a concentration camp to take salacious photographs and the young inmate (Charlotte Rampling) with whom he developed a kinky relationship:  they meet by chance in a hotel in Vienna 12 years after the war has ended. He is about to go into a mock trial with his fellow abusers and they find out that the girl, now the wife of a conductor, could be a witness. He and the girl resume their relationship … Max is more than just the past. And therein lieth the knotty problem. We know about the Nazis in our midst, they continue to holiday around Europe in a self-congratulatory orgy  in destinations such as Alicante and Portofino annually, according to Jonathan Freedland. And we found out in the 70s how they organised, thanks to Frederick Forsyth. And there are a fair few of them and their descendants in Argentina, Brazil and Chile. We are loath to admit it, but we also know that they were reabsorbed into German life post-WW2 and the only people who lost their State pensions were anti-Nazis in a regime funded by American money (so much for nation re-building). We also know that Hitler’s backup plan – the Fourth Reich, as it were – was a European economic union governed by Germany. That’s the revolting European reality:  tell that to PIGS. We rest your case. So why does this explicit linking of pornography, violence and Nazism exert such a negative critical energy? Precisely because it is personalised. It is given a name, or rather, two: Max and Lucia. And like it or not, howsoever it was forged, they love each other. Yes, it’s sick. But in that sickness is revealed a truth about human survival. It is also indicative of a truth about every relationship – it’s about power. And control. Director and writer Liliana Cavani took a lot of heat for this but she remains a notable filmmaker and this is a testament to bravery, if nothing else. And Bogarde is fantastic in a deeply troubling role. Rampling was so young and beautiful – she does everything she can. And they must have trusted each other greatly to shoot those scenes together. Screenplay by Cavani & Italo Moscati, with collaboration by Barbara Alberti & Amedeo Pagani from a story by Cavani, Alberto & Pagani. That’s why you’re here, fishing up the past

Ripley’s Game (2002)

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Perhaps one of the most underrated interpretations of the Highsmith books, this Ripley adaptation has the very apt John Malkovich as her smoothly cultivated psycho, now living in some style in Northern Italy (stunningly rendered by cinematographer Alfio Contini) seemingly long retired from serial murder. Life is upset by the return of a thug (Ray Winstone) who wants to extract more money from a deal with Ripley after being threatened in Berlin by Ukrainian gangsters. When Ripley’s diffident art restorer neighbour (Dougray Scott) unwittingly insults this suave criminal, a solution seems to suggest itself … Adapted by director Liliana Caviani with Charles McKeown, this is really an exploration of how far a man will go to protect what he has. Caviani is of course best known for the controversial 1974 production The Night Porter, starring Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Rampling, both of whom gave daring performances of a none-too-popular subject (the Nazis who simply returned to their previous jobs after the horrors they committed in the camps) and retains its reputation today. She is however a gifted filmmaker whose talents have been somewhat overlooked at least in the anglophone world and seems to be working in television for the most part right now. The score here is by Ennio Morricone and is a notable feature of the dramatic tension.