Movies No One Sees

John Rabe

John Rabe was a German Siemens executive living in Nanking, China when the Japanese invaded China and surrounded Nanking.   Rabe saved some 200,000 Chinese civilians, mostly Siemans workers, by using his Nazi Party affiliation to remind the Japanese that the Germans were their allies.  He and a few others worked to establish an official safety zone.  It’s a fascinating look into what later became known as “The Rape of Nanking” by the Japanese.  Rabe was replaced by a more devout Nazi and returned to Berlin where he was accused of being a Chinese collaborator.  Later, after the war, the Allies did not repatriate him and he died in Berlin.  His heroism is tempered by this fatal flaw:  he believed Hitler would intervene with the Japanese. 

The film has some subtitling but one of the characters is an American doctor, and much of the movie is in English.  There is a good deal of dramatic suspense and the acting is excellent.  The performance by the actor who plays Rabe is especially affecting.  From what I’ve read, the movie is by and large historically accurate.


I ordered Departures before the March 11th earthquake and tsunami in Japan and watched it afterward.  Departures is the story of a man who returns to his hometown to find work and is recruited by an older gentleman to prepare bodies for cremation.  It sounds like a creepy premise, but it’s a beautiful and often funny movie as the young man gets drawn into the work and understand the importance of the ceremony for the familie of the deceased.  It was bittersweet to say the least to see this movie knowing that thousands of families of tsunami victims would be denied this ritual and the respect that the dead deserve. 

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Frenchman Thierry Guetta, living in New York City, decides to film street artists, the secretive graffiti blasting types.  He eventually decides he, too, can do street art.  One of his subjects is the elusive British stencilist called Banksy.  Banksy eventually culls this documentary out of the thousands of vidio tapes that Thierry shot.  It’s an amazing accounting of Thierry’s mounting obsessions and a warning to anyone who thinks he or she can be an artist:  Yes!  Yes, you can.  

Lars and the Real Girl

Oh, I loved this movie.  Lars, a shy guy who is in mourning, is nudged by friends and family to find a girl.  He does.  A plastic one, life size, with a full biography.  The family takes him to a therapist, who takes Lars very seriously.  Lars’ stupendously loving hometown agrees to take him seriously, too.  Soon, the doll is invited to parties, to be on committees, to help local advertisers…I think she’s elected mayor.   Meanwhile, Lars meets a real girl and his transition from loving a plastic doll to being with a real woman is  a story of love, loss and redemption.



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