Two Harvard Grads, Two WWII Stories, in A Twentieth Century Tale
A brief, loose, and rather meager addition to the swaying pile of WWII-ephemera documentaries, Richard Kaplans A 20th Century Tale parallels the respective fates of two Harvard graduates during wartime. One, Ernst Putzi Hanfstaengl, was deemed qualifiedwby his partAmerican heritage and Ivy League education to act as Adolf Hitlers Foreign Press Bureau chief but fell out with Nazi brass, defecting in 1937 to spend the war years telling what he knew to American intelligence. The other, Varian Fry, was a classics scholar-turned-foreign correspondent who reported on anti-Semitic violence in Hitlers Germany well ahead of the pack. Tale concentrates mostly on Frys 1940-41 stay in Marseilles, during which he arranged for the escape of refugees from occupied Vichy France, often in the teeth of state department resistance. Kaplans biographical diptych is made up of recited excerpts from letters and memoirs, stock footage, and talking heads who recount, among other things, the period in which Frys headquarters became a bohemian salon. While emphasizing his subjects shared alma mater and single professional meeting, Kaplan doesnt locate any telling contrasts by pairing these personalities. This is what comes of dumping material on a viewer, rather than arranging it.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.