Napalm Screen 6 articles



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  • The punchline is painful and unmistakably poignant, but the story could have been edited down a lot more to make its points about the society the nurse lived in 1958, and what the episode might say about North Korea and its ordinary citizens today. As it is, you understand that filming possibilities on his latest trip must have been limited... Even so, Napalm feels like a missed opportunity to get much deeper under the skin of a nation that Lanzmann clearly knows better than most observers.

  • Of all of the documentaries made about North Korea by Westerners in recent years, Claude Lanzmann’s Napalm, which premiered Sunday out of competition at Cannes, is by far the most peculiar, not to mention the most brazenly narcissistic. Of course, since Lanzmann’s Shoah, a probing nine-hour film on the Holocaust, is one of the most celebrated documentaries of our era, it’s also impossible to completely dismiss this head-scratching minor work.

  • The Korean women of today that Lanzmann admires lasciviously become estranged echoes of the young Korean in his memory. Yet they are also part and parcel with the director’s startling chauvinism and egotistic false-modesty on display in his oral history of his affair, a deeply uncomfortable part of the film's intense encounter with Lanzmann’s storytelling, face to face. Yet this discomfort is transformed as the movie draws to a close.

  • Lanzmann may definitely be in love with his own voice... but he’s also a supreme storyteller who has relied on first-hand accounts throughout his career to bear witness to some of the darkest periods in modern history. In Napalm he uses his own experience to fuel the narrative... What results is a unique look at a place and people who we have mostly known through news reports or government propaganda, but rarely in movies through such a human point of view.

  • Lanzmann has always searched beyond intellectual accounts of memory and history. In Napalm, the testimony he gives is, of course, deeply personal. It’s also messily intertwined with politics, an empirical account of what living in a freedomless land, partially created by and through the West’s own ignorance, looks like, and how that oppression forbids the most basic and righteous of human connections.

  • . . . I later caught up with one of the other opening-night movies on offer, Claude Lanzmann’s mini-masterpiece Napalm, to my mind one of the year’s most romantic films. I was incredibly taken by the 91-year-old Lanzmann’s spirited flirtations with the women he encounters while on a recent trip to North Korea, only to be flattened by the story of a brief, truncated love affair he then recounts to the camera.

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