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LENI: The Life and Wo...
Steven Bach
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LENI: The Life and Works of LENI RIEFENSTAHL

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  355 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
This is a remarkable book. Putting to rest any lingering doubts concerning Ms. Riefenstahl's happy and willing embrace of National Socialism, her deep friendship and admiration of Adolf Hitler, her aggressive and sympathic desire to glorify through film the National Socialist Movement in her four films for Nazi Germany, her subsequent lies and distortions concerning her li ...more
Published 2007
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Aug 25, 2010 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a book about a woman who was a German who is dead (now). Before she was dead, she was alive and a dancer when she was younger, but dancer should really be in quotes because she danced like Ed Grimley sometimes, and at other times she danced like swatting wasp colonies and at still other times she danced like scraping dog poo off shoes. If you don't believe me (about the dancing), please see her first movie, which was a mountain movie called The Holy Mountain (1926). In the silent mo ...more
Oct 25, 2015 Sketchbook rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
"What garlic is to salad, insanity is to art." -- Saint-Gaudens

Author Steven Bach, who presided over the failure of United Artists (he just wasnt smart), brings his malicious pen to smear every aspect of That Monster, in his view, Leni. Of course, iggynorunts, of which there are many, know nothing of her -- except what the crackpot emotionalists scream -- and they get messy orgasms. Be advised.

Leni was an obsessive, self-centered and, yes, a demented cineaste who'd do anything to make a movie.
Carol Storm
Jan 07, 2014 Carol Storm rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant but petty and cruel -- but unfortunately that's the author, not the subject!

Not since Albert Goldman's ELVIS has a dense, full length biography of a sexy, glamorous larger than life legend been written with such sadistic relish, such delicious malicious bitchery and pure venomous guile.

There's no question that Leni Riefenstahl, the stunningly beautiful German woman who made hypnotic propaganda films for the Nazis, was guilty of moral cowardice and hypocrisy, if not during the war, then
Feb 22, 2015 Jeb rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such interesting content that is often tainted by the author's suffocating agenda. History itself lends judgement, but here is obfuscated when guided by this writer's subjective opinions.
Nov 30, 2013 Siria rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
A readable, if flawed, biography of the German film maker, Leni Riefenstahl. Riefenstahl rose from a perfectly ordinary working-class Berlin childhood to being one of the key propagandists of the Third Reich. Despite her later disavowals of any knowledge or complicity, Steven Bach's biography makes it clear that Riefenstahl was ruthless, narcissistic, utterly lacking in self-awareness, and quite attached to Hitler. It's true that she may not have been a fascist, ideologically speaking, but I thi ...more
It’s a rare thing, to go into reading a biography thinking not entirely positive things about its subject ('Leni Riefenstahl: Nazi propagandist' being something of a kicker) and yet to come away thinking even worse of them. Usually a biography humanizes even the stoniest of subjects ('He was a mass murdering fuckwit, but he really loved his dogs/wife/grandkids, y'know?'), but Bach's well-researched chronicle of the life and times of Riefenstahl has the opposite effect: with the cumulative facts ...more
Obviously it's an interesting story, but the book too often strikes an unprofessional tone and seems too interested in arguing a case instead of letting the facts speak for themselves. Even worse is the narration on the audiobook, which is plagued by poor phrasing, overacting, and mispronunciations so egregious my skin crawled. If the writer had been more confident in allowing the facts to speak for themselves I feel like there would be more facts, a fuller picture, and less reliance of snarky, ...more
Kimba Tichenor
Steven Bach, a former UA studio executive, offers an unflinching account of the life and work of Leni Riefenstahl, paying particular attention to her postwar efforts to control and rewrite her relationship to the Nazi regime. In doing so, he raises important questions about the relationship between form and content, between art and morality, and between aesthetics and politics that have relevance well beyond the more specific question of Leni Riefenstahl's troubling relationship to Nazism. For a ...more
Berna Labourdette
Oct 05, 2016 Berna Labourdette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
imposible no sacarse el sombrero a esta biografía de la reina de la autoconstrucción de su imagen, la cineasta Leni Riefenstahl. Bach, logra ser imparcial al describir todos los juicios que emprendió Leni para deshacerse del estigma de su pasado nazi y confrontarla con los dichos de quienes la conocían como Albert Speer. No deja de ser admirable el esfuerzo de Bach por retratar a una figura que hizo de la reescritura de su vida su mejor obra. Imposible quedar indiferente a su esfuerzo y no deja ...more
Steven Peterson
Nov 25, 2009 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This biography of Leni Riefenstahl by Steven Bach is compelling reading. It tells the tale of someone with great talent--but also someone who could never come honestly to grips with her role in Nazi Germany. Someone who, in the end, was a mediocre actress and dancer and a very talented filmmaker and photographer. But even with her successes, many felt that with Riefenstahl, she put as much focus on herself as on her works. And, with some of her works, critics noted that they were technically won ...more
Jul 10, 2014 Leinad rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014, reviewed
As of now, I am burying the idea that I need to finish every book I start. For some books, the whole is much more than the sum of the parts, so you gain immensely from pressing through to the end. However for many books, especially non-fictional works, you make the best use of your limited time by picking and choosing the most useful or interesting bits to read, and leaving the rest. We are, after all, mortal.

Leni was one such book that I didn't finish completely. But I am going to review it any
Christopher Telcontar
Steven Bach does a professional and competent job with Leni's life, seldom allowing what one feels is disdain for his subject break the threshold into outright disgust. It's quite a tightrope to walk, for one of the Reich's lesser lights and more ambigious figures. It's not as if he wrote a bio of Himmler where it need not be said the subject is abhorrent but fascinating. Leni was vain, shallow, a not so gifted liar, a shapeshifter when it came to morality, yet gifted in her chosen field of cine ...more
Todd Stockslager
Jun 08, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Riefenstahl biography reveals a multi-faceted conundrum. The sexually-charged and Nazi-friendly female filmmaker in a man's time (1930s-40s) , place (Nazi Germany), and business (movie making, especially as a director and producer) made two of the greatest movies ever made-- or denigrated. "Triumph of the Will" recorded and glorified the 1935 Nazi party rally in Nuremburg and Olympiad (actually a pair of movies focusing on the nationalistic results and the athletic beauty of the competition) doc ...more
Jill Hutchinson
The author pulls no punches here as he dissects the amazing life of Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler's most effective propogandist. She denied her role and involvement in the Third Reich throughout her 101 year life but one has only to read this book and see even snippets of her films to realize that she was the consummate apologist for her own behavior. Bach has done considerable research and quotes from Riefenstahl's letters and Goebbles' diary which put paid to her denials and evasions.

There is no do
Sep 13, 2008 Greer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This biography is the ultimate answer to any Riefenstahl apologist or admirer who claims that form can somehow be divorced from content, or anyone who holds Riefenstahl up as a feminist icon (she wasn't above using tears, tantrums, or flirtation to get her way). One only wishes that the evidence amassed by Bach had been available immediately following the war -- the fawning letters to "my Fuhrer," Goebbels' diary entries revealing their relationship wasn't as contentious as she claimed, her anti ...more
Julia Murphy
Jan 02, 2015 Julia Murphy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Leni Riefenstahl is a really interesting person. If you were going to give her the benefit of the doubt before reading this book, your opinion will likely change. This book reveals a young Leni as a fame-hungry man-conqueror, and in later life she made a practice of rewriting her reality to justify her decisions.

I didn't actually finish this book. It would be a great book if you had to write a really detailed report about minor (or maybe major, I don't know) co-conspirators in her personal socia
Dec 05, 2007 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating and frustrating. You read the book and you can't help but think that Riefenstahl was made of Energizer batteries and Teflon. Bach portrays Riefenstahl as unambiguously opportunistic, someone who used her talents (supposedly undeniable when it came to filmmaking...I haven't seen her films) and everything but the kitchen sink to pursue her projects, no matter the disloyalties or casualties. Even up to her dying day, she lied and distorted history with no apologies. Bach doesn't really ...more
Sep 08, 2016 Margi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Inspired by the book The Extra by Kathryn Lansky, I decided to pick up this biography. So glad I did. Filled with not only info about the movie she made using the gypsies as extras (from book mentioned above), but filled with so many interesting fact about her and several members of the Third Reich including Hitler. I could not put this book down. Each chapter made me say "wow" when I came across another fact I never knew. Leni claimed to know nothing about the Holocaust but her photographs tell ...more
Dec 17, 2016 Judy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It was a tough book to read for many reasons. The fact that she was a narcissistic, egomaniac was one of the things, that bothered me the most.
I could not read this book page by page. I skipped around alot.
On the other hand, I could not believe what she got away with. How in that day she could demand anything from anybody, yes including Hitler himself (at least according to her).
Using sexual favors with every man she met, she got what she wanted.
(How she got away with not having a STD or a baby
Mar 20, 2014 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Horrible, self deluded, cinematic genies. Someone who spent their entire life believing their own PR was the truth and never having a bit of remorse for anything they did. Many biographers become someone temperamental about their subjects but not Bach. He pulls no punches with this well researched and sweeping biography. At times it is a primer for early cinema and a brief history of the rise of National Socialism in Germany. This helps set the stage for Riefenstahl and here long and storied lif ...more
May 21, 2012 Gabriella rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this book, Leni is not portrayed as a particularly universally "lovable" person, but in my opinion, a person who is deserving of some form of respect for all that she did to achieve her dreams. I found her a fascinating person, and was admiring her strong work ethic. She was not a perfect person, and the book rightfully criticizes her role in creating propaganda films; but anyways, this was an interesting book about an interesting person. I definitely felt uneasy about some of her moral choic ...more
Apr 11, 2013 Majorslayage rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
fascinating and spellbinding account of what happens when one tries to divorce content from execution, especially in hindsight. unforgiving and highly critical of Riefenstahl, this biography nevertheless presents a deeply flawed, ambitious and unsatisfied woman who may have been a great filmmaker if not for her complicity in the third reich's horrors, or perhaps is only relevant because of that association.
Dec 19, 2009 Randy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating book. Leni Riefenstahl was an actress and filmmaker in Nazi Germany who directed two of the most infamous, yet brilliantly made, propaganda films ever produced: "Triumph of the Will" and "Olympia." Mr. Bach also explores Riefenstahl's work on other films as both actress and director. Leni Riefenstahl is a fascinating historic character. Based on this book, had I known Leni, I probably would not have liked her. However, her life makes a very interesting story.
Missie Kay
A fascinating portrait. Leni is shown to be a lifelong narcissist who constantly changes her own life story to fit her needs at the given time. Bach never denies her talent for cinematography (visual framing and effects), but points out how difficult she was to work with and how much money she expended on every production (which probably explains her meager output, despite a long career in years).
Jul 02, 2008 Cari rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An in-depth portrait of a brilliant artist and ultimately cold, easily-detestable individual. The loathsome use to which she put her artistic energy in the service of the Third Reich overshadows the rest of her career and her life. A thorough (if biased...the author plainly feels nothing but antipathy for his subject) history of Riefenstahl, Hitler's propagandist and creator of the Triumph of the Will.
Pierre Fouché
Jun 26, 2016 Pierre Fouché rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 09, 2009 Whitney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really interesting read. Leni Riefenstahl has always intrigued me and this confirms my impression of her. It also gives an excellent glimpse in to pre-Nazi / Weimar Germany and the film studios there. It also shows her contradictory life and how she created a persona that conflicted with reality. I have renewed interest in seeing her films again, now knowing some of the background behind them
Sep 01, 2013 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
"Leni Riefenstahl was a complicated woman. This bio gets a bit unnecessarily savage at times, but then again maybe she deserved this treatment. The main impression that I get is that she was an cunning opportunist who slept her way into the business, made two brilliant films, then (unconvincingly) played dumb when confronted on her involvement with the Nazis. Despite the author’s agenda, it was a lively read which makes me want to check out Olympia." ( review, March 2, 2008)
Sep 23, 2007 Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Bach did his homework, and I suspect the fact that he is a man of the theater helped him know what to look for. He reveals that Riefenstahl's mother was Jewish, another reminder that the rotoscoped image of this period disguises a complex and ambiguous reality. His analysis of her cinematic innovations and work methods as evaluated by her peers is first-rate. This is a terrific view of a disconcertingly modern personality type.
Marylight Gois
Uma biografia não isenta sobre uma mulher de talento, também ela comprometida.A obsessão pela arte não desculpabiliza a ignorância sobre o que se passava à sua volta. Claro que sabia, mas o seu egocentrismo era maior. Steven Bach poderia ter dado enfoque também ao seu contributo para a arte cinematográfica, mas preferiu fazer um julgamento de Nuremberga.
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Steven Bach was senior vice-president and head of worldwide productions for United Artists studios. In Final Cut: Dreams And Disaster in the Making of Heaven's Gate (1985), Bach chronicles his involvement in the troubled production of Heaven's Gate (1980), a film widely considered to have been the decisive reason for the financial bankruptcy of United Artists.

Bach is the author of The Life and Leg
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“She attempts to give the impression of untiring activity, thereby underlining her importance. Meanwhile her colleagues calmly and expertly get on with the job at hand.” 1 likes
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