On the verge - Page 2

Terror's Advocate adds to Barbet Schroeder's library of alluring evil

Combine Before and After (1995), Our Lady of the Assassins (2000) and Murder by Numbers (2002), and you have an oeuvre with more murderous teenage boys than anything this side of William Burroughs. In his Single White Female (1992), Kiss of Death (1994), and Desperate Measures (1997) there is a twinship between monsters and heroes and a surprising sympathy for the violently unhinged. Consistently, Schroeder examines people of conscience who are seduced into doing evil's bidding, and he lets them speak for themselves. Even Vergès's defense of Nazi butcher Klaus Barbie is framed as an opportunity to attack French hypocrisy, imperialism, and butchery. Asked if he'd defend Hitler, Vergès says, "I'd even agree to defend [George W.] Bush. But only if he agrees to plead guilty."

Terror's Advocate is dense with information. Its structure is complex and indirect and requires unfaltering attention. Yet Schroeder succeeds at creating a surprising amount of suspense, especially considering the amount of screen time given over to talking heads. Meanwhile, he quietly explores what must be one of the central enigmas for our tortured planet, the human relationship to violence. Violence and money, violence and sex, violence and political change, senseless violence and goal-oriented violence — Schroeder nimbly navigates all of the above, creating a visceral ethical disquiet. *


Opens Fri/2 in Bay Area theaters

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