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Marcel Ophüls (born November 1, 1927) is a documentary film maker and former actor.
The son of director Max Ophüls, Marcel had a peripatetic childhood, which commentators have suggested facilitated his objective documentary accounts of the French national psyche. After education at Hollywood High while his father worked for the studios during the 1940s, Marcel served with the US occupying forces in Japan. When the family returned to Paris in 1950 Marcel became an assistant to Julien Duvivier and Anatole Litvak, and worked on John Huston’s Moulin Rouge (1952) and his father’s Lola Montès (1955). Through François Truffaut, Ophüls got to direct an episode of the portmanteau film Love At Twenty (1962). There followed the commercial hit Banana Peel (1964), a detective film starring Jeanne Moreau and Jean-Paul Belmondo.
With a slump in box-office fortunes, Ophüls turned to television news reporting and a documentary on the Munich crisis of 1938: Munich (1967). He then embarked on his examination of France under Nazi occupation, The Sorrow And The Pity. Although he enjoyed making entertainments, Ophüls became identified as a documentarian, using a characteristically sober interview style to resolve disparate experiences into a persuasive argument. A Sense Of Loss (1972) looked at Northern Ireland, while The Memory Of Justice (1973) was an ambitious comparison of US policy in Vietnam and the atrocities of the Nazis. Disagreements with his French backers over interpretation led Ophüls to smuggle a print to New York where it was shown privately. Legal wrangles left him disappointed and financially broke and Ophüls turned to university lecturing.
In the mid-1970s, he began producing documentaries for CBS and ABC. His feature documentary Hotel Terminus: The Life And Times Of Klaus Barbie (1988) won an Academy Award, since then he has made a damning interview film with two senior East German Communists, November Days (1992) and a ruminative look at how journalists cover war, The Trouble We've Seen (1994).
- Matisse, ou Le talent du Bonheur (1960) (short)
- Love at Twenty (1962)
- Banana Peel (1963)
- Fire at Will (1965)
- Munich or Peace in our Time (1967)
- The Harvest of My Lai (1970)
- The Sorrow and the Pity (Le Chagrin et la pitié) (1969) - This film marked a turning point in the French debate about the Vichy Regime.
- A Sense of Loss (1972)
- The Memory of Justice (1973-6) On the Nuremberg Trials
- Egon Schiele Exzess und Bestrafung (1980)
- Hôtel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie (1989) - Winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature
- November Days (1992)
- Veillées d'armes (The Troubles We've Seen: A History of Journalism in Wartime) (1994)
Every year the IDFA (International Documentary Festival) in Amsterdam screens an acclaimed filmmaker's 10 favorite films. In 2007, Iranian filmmaker Maziar Bahari selected The Sorrow and the Pity for his top ten classics from the history of documentary.
- The sorrow and the pity : a film by Marcel Ophüls, Introduction by Stanley Hoffmann. Filmscript translated by Mireille Johnston. Biographical and appendix material by Mireille Johnston, New York : Berkeley Publishing Corporation, 1975
- Marcel Ophüls at the Internet Movie Database
- Marcel Ophüls at AllRovi
- Writings and interviews with Marcel Ophuls