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

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  263 ratings  ·  42 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
Knopf
Published 2007
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David
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
Carol Storm
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
...more
Siria
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
CiderandRedRot
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
Richard
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
Jeb I.
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.
Julia Murphy
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
...more
Steven Peterson
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
Greer
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
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
...more
David
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
Brian
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
Katari Sporrong
I'm biased by having taken a course with Steven Bach before he died, but I was incredibly impressed by this biography. He did an amazing job at pulling her humanity and inhumanity out all at once to paint an unclear picture of a terrible and complex woman.
Gabriella
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
Matt
"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." (Scrubbles.net review, March 2, 2008)
Randy
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.
Peter
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.
Cari
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.
Majorslayage
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.
Missie Kay The Book Fix
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).
Whitney
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
Diane
I viewed an exhibit of Leni Riefenstahl's work at the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände in Nuremberg a few years ago. I was interested in Leni's work and her story.
I believe that this book was well researched. The author reported on the artistic achievements of Riefenstahl in addition to reporting on the her involvement with the Reich. Much to think about.
Lindsay
Very interesting. I'm biased, since I'm already interested in anything German and have been curious about Leni Riefenstahl for years. The author had access to new sources about Leni, and this book is a great supplement to the film The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl.

Also, for librarians: very thorough footnotes and bibliography!
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.
Erin14
I've been reading this one for awhile. It is RATHER dense so it is not a light read. It's a fascinating story of one woman's rise in a male-dominated world. Throughout, she denied that she ever knew what Hitler was REALLY doing in Europe. She didn't seem to care that others were being slaughtered as long as her star was on the rise.
Vivablur
I am a couple of chapters into this book and I am enjoying the portrait of Weimar Germany and her single-minded ambition. Little acknowledged causes of the Third Reich- Alpine movies and inflation. I am also learning that Madonna has more than a little Leni in her, if you will forgive the imagery.
Jen Hyatt
This compelling biography was written by a former colleague of mine at Bennington college; Riefenstahl was a controversial filmmaker best known for the propaganda films she created for the Third Reich. Fascinating to read about her life and how her ambition surpassed any sense of morality.
Matt
Bach hacks through a lot of oft-contradictory bullshit, much of it spread by Riefenstahl herself, to create a mostly coherent narrative. Impressive, that. Still, it could be slightly less obviously anti-Riefenstahl. I'm not convinced Bach even likes her as an artist.
Jesselyn
A very well researched, written, and even-handed biography. I found the abundance of first-hand source material made the work especially credible. I also quite enjoyed the female narrator of the audiobook - I felt she really brought a lot of life to the work.
Vasile
An interesting read about leni Riefenstahl: the infamous film director of nazi propaganda and the brilliance of her artistic attitude in filmography. This historian favours leni in her endeavours throughout her "five" life(s). good read.
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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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