Tuesday, September 09, 2003

BERLIN, Germany --Photographer and filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, best known for the Nazi propaganda films "Triumph of the Will" and "Olympia," has died at the age of 101.

Leni Riefenstahl's contribution to culture is that she'll alway be a focus point for debate over the responsibilities of the artist, to oneself & to one's culture. She was one of the few first rate talents to put herself directly at the service of National Socialism. Even Furtwangler & Richard Strauss didn't go that far; the latter two were not young. But she stuck to her lame alibi right to the end. My own fondness for the best Soviet era music raises this problem constantly. How much of a collaborator with Stalin was Prokofiev when he composed his almost surreal October Cantata? (Which was rejected by the Kulture Kops all the same). Shostakovich composed scores for propaganda films, on assignment, while he shelved his "formalist decadent" chamber music for years.

On the other hand, is it so good an idea for the bored intelligensia to rehabilitate Norman Rockwell's particular sanitized vision of America? It's still a funhouse mirror.

So much of culture is already a lie, when art compromises, by choice or coercion, in order to stay safely within the boundaries of political & moral acceptability, even when the "norms" of a society are outrageously, immorally warped. & after watching TV series that fictionalize the exploits of the CIA, FBI & other "intelligence" agencies, one wonders if the message involves some sort of 9/11 denial - they couldn't prevent the attacks & they still can't find the WMD.

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"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson

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