Cinema: Bearding The Butcher of Lyons

This is not, Marcel Ophuls insists, a biography of the notorious "Butcher of Lyons," convicted by a French court in 1987 of crimes against humanity as chief of the Gestapo unit stationed in that city during World War II. The film is, Ophuls says, a study of people's responses -- the complicity, the indifference, the willed ignorance -- to the face of evil presented to them by Klaus Barbie.

His strategy is sound. For Barbie is that familiar archetype, the sadist whose dark impulses might have remained impotent had they not been licensed by a police bureaucracy demanding results, and no...

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