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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly depraved and utterly fascinating
"The Night Porter" must have been one of those films that shocked people when it first came out. Directed by Liliana Cavani and sporting a garish cover on the Criterion Collection DVD (yes, the cover image does come from a scene in the movie, but not in the way you would think), "The Night Porter" deals with extremely unpleasant psychological situations stemming from the...
Published on Jan. 25 2004 by Jeffrey Leach

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars My hats off to the Criterion transfer !
Don't expect a REVIEW of the story in the following comment:
For those who LOVED this movie while viewing it on video in the early 80s, your in for a treat with this Criterion Collection transfer. The color/contrast/sharpness makes it look almost brand new ! And the 'bleakness' of the film shines through.
That being said, did this movie REALLY need to be a...
Published on Feb. 15 2002


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly depraved and utterly fascinating, Jan. 25 2004
By 
Jeffrey Leach (Omaha, NE USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Night Porter (Widescreen) (DVD)
"The Night Porter" must have been one of those films that shocked people when it first came out. Directed by Liliana Cavani and sporting a garish cover on the Criterion Collection DVD (yes, the cover image does come from a scene in the movie, but not in the way you would think), "The Night Porter" deals with extremely unpleasant psychological situations stemming from the holocaust. The film is definitely not for everyone, but those capable of keeping an open mind may find much to like about this generally repulsive piece of art house cinema. You have to hand it to Criterion for continuing to release pristine transfers of films considered anathema to mainstream audiences. My experiences with this DVD company have introduced me to such wondrous delights as "Blood for Dracula," "Man Bites Dog," "Peeping Tom," "Hearts and Minds," and several other challenging titles. My only gripe with Criterion concerns the cost of their DVDs, which often seem quite high even for such great movies.
"The Night Porter" is about a night porter working in a fancy hotel in Vienna, Austria twelve years after the end of World War II. If the movie merely touched on the surface aspects involving night portering, it would be a dull affair indeed. How to make a film delving into the multifaceted fascinations of checking in luggage, or taking phone calls from irate customers? No, "The Night Porter" has little to do with the hotel industry and much to do with a hideous relationship between two tortured souls. The night porter at this particular hotel, Max Aldorfer (Dirk Bogarde), was once an SS officer assigned to a concentration camp where he tortured and killed inmates. Post war investigations into war atrocities has Max and his fellow Nazi henchmen on edge; they meet often to discuss their efforts to suppress evidence and other ways to cover their tracks. Max is ambivalent about these meetings, and becomes even more so after a chance meeting with a woman he had a very special relationship with in the camp. This woman, Lucia Atherton (Charlotte Rampling), initially expresses horror at seeing her former lover/tormentor in the flesh after all these years, but then something grim and repellent happens. The sick spark that united victim and oppressor all those years ago blossoms anew. Lucia feigns a lame excuse to her husband about staying behind so she can indulge her desires for Max. And this is only the beginning of the trouble.
Max's friends express great alarm about this relationship. They see Lucia's presence as a significant danger to their yearning for anonymity, and they want Max to jettison the love affair and come over to their way of thinking. Max suspects spending time with Atherton presents a danger to him, but he cannot bear the idea of giving her up again. He secrets her away in his apartment in an effort to hide the relationship from his companions, who warn Max that keeping this woman in bondage will force them to take drastic measures to insure their secrecy. The former Nazi's go so far as to monitor Max's apartment twenty four hours a day, taking pot shots at him whenever he sticks his head outside for even a minute. When Max and Lucia run out of food and drink, they make a terrible decision about their future that will have permanent, unpleasant results for the pair.
It would be easy to write off "The Night Porter" as an exploitation film, a movie in the same vein as Tinto Brass's "Salon Kitty" or "Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS," two films which borrow themes from National Socialist Germany to make a cheap statement about the nightmare of the holocaust. "The Night Porter" does contain many disturbing images that could rate as exploitation fare: the flashbacks to the concentration camp where Max and Lucia first meet immediately comes to mind, as does the little dance number Lucia performs for her lover and a room full of SS officers. Having said that, I really don't feel this movie is exploitative. There is something more going on here than mere sensationalism, perhaps a statement about the nature of power and how it pertains to love during a horrific event. I would need to watch the film again to examine Lucia's desire for Max, but for the former SS officer I think the need to relive a time when he was a man with position and power is the main reason he rekindles this doomed relationship. Here's a guy who held the power of life and death over thousands of people, and now he works as a lowly hotel clerk. Why wouldn't he want to taste again the rush of power he gets when he dominates Lucia in his apartment? Sure, it is sick, but people do inexplicable things in relationships all the time that are just as disturbing.
A quick note on the performances: Charlotte Rampling and Dirk Bogarde both excel in their respective roles. Rampling especially is always easy on the eyes and has a wonderfully expressive face capable of transmitting complex emotions to the audience without uttering a word. If for no other reason, you should watch this film just to see these two actors turn in amazing performances. Married with a marvelous picture transfer, sumptuous set pieces, gloomy atmosphere, and a great script, "The Night Porter" is a one of a kind film that is sure to make an impression. Thanks again, Criterion, for releasing yet another brilliant cinematic oddity.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seriously underrated, April 17 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Night Porter (Widescreen) (DVD)
Although it has brought uprobrium on all involved, and nearly ended the film careers of Bogarde and Rampling, this is a remarkable study of post-traumatic stress syndrome. There were many such stories in Vienna, twelve years after WW II, and this one is studied with nearly flawless timing. The ex-Nazi goons are repulsive, of course, but a necessary exteriorization of the persecuting demons within. The two main characters have everything to live for, but find their choices closing down, one after another, until the final but not incredible Liebestod.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, a work of dark genius. Forget the other reviews!, Aug. 9 2003
By 
Tom Garretson (Norway) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Night Porter (Widescreen) (DVD)
Reading these other reviews only leads me to think that their viewing was only superficial. This is really a marvelous work of ART, folks -- dark art, and two brilliant, startling performances by Rampling and Bogard. And remember, it is indeed based on A TRUE STORY. But as stylization is not trendy these days thanks to wearisome reality type films from Hollywood, what you get here is a stylized, artful portrayal of an inner hell, obsession, and shackles of the past....Those of you who think this just doesn't ring true, only need look at many marriages of today and past, where the husband beats the crap out of the wife who continually comes back for more.....not an easy film to sit through, but afterwards you will be unable to return to Hollywood. Be warned. Not for everyone, but if you like dark art or music, you're gonna slap your head on this one....I LOVE THIS MOVIE. Cinematic film as art, and as a powerful moving drama that will leave you on the floor in front of your TV gasping for air. And the bottle of whiskey.
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5.0 out of 5 stars take it easy film buffs!, July 25 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The Night Porter (Widescreen) (DVD)
hmm. pouring over these reviews i must say, some very snippy hardcore film critics! i somtimes think a certain movie is totally mindblowing like joseph losey's "boom!", which many (including my gilrfriend!) consider campy and unwatchable. i loved that movie. i love the sensationalness of the "night porter." it is challenging, multi-layered and very entertaining. to get caught up in whether or not it is exploitation, or whether or not a thing like this could ever have really happened, is a big mistake.
of course it could really happen. all of those nazis running camps were humans, with the full amount of complexities that humans can have. no person is 100% saint or sinner. i view the holocaust in this movie as a backdrop for a strange love story. let's not forget that love can be destructive and most dysfunctional! she abandons her nice hubby for a nazi who tortured her. you're crazy if you think that's not realistic. that little plot turn happens in real life everyday the world over.
i think that critics of this film don't enjoy a celebration of life which includes very sordid idealogies. this film is a cross between "secretary" (which i hated) and "the pianist" (which was ok.) "the night porter is completely more enjoyable than those films. what a unique idea visualized. what great atmoshere and a great performances.
exploitation? i don't know. who defines these words anyway?
just go see it if you haven't yet and see for yourself. you have to like a bit bit of craziness and audacity to get anything out of this. this movie, up there with bogarde's "the servant" leave me feeling dirty and the end, and i like it!
they don't make em like they used to. can you imagine someone pitching a story like this to a producer today? good heavens!
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4.0 out of 5 stars My first R-rated movie without Mom, June 22 2003
By 
Wil-n-Tally "bavabuff" (Tallahassee, FL United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Night Porter (Widescreen) (DVD)
This movie was a really big deal for me because it ther first R-rated movie I was able to see without being accompained by a guardian. I proudly showed my ID to prove I was old enough to join the art house movie going crowd on a Saturday night and entered the theater all proud and mature. After watching the movie, I left the theater depressed because the movie was so dark and gloomy with an ugly message on the state of humanity; I was also excited because I could tell my friends all the nasty, shocking things I had seen. Dirk Bogarde plays the night porter in a high class hotel in Vienna. Charlotte Rampling shows up looking stunningly beautiful and elegant. They recognize each other; he was an official in the Nazi party and she was a teenager in his concentration camp. They begin a depraved S & M affair while in the camp. When they find each other in the hotel, their sick relationship is rekindled and the depravity continues. Seeing it again years later the whole thing seems silly, depraved, and pretenious but still alot of fun.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Rampling, Bogarde extraordinary in dark, brooding tale, Sept. 29 2002
By 
Matthew Horner (USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Night Porter (Widescreen) (DVD)
"The Night Porter" is a dark, melancholy film from a period of moviemaking in which audiences were more adult overall and more willing to accept offbeat subject matter. It was also a time when the world was ready to reflect on the horrors, as well as the possible causes, of the Nazi era. Today, "The Night Porter" may be a bit of a relic, but to anyone with knowledge of the impact Hitler and friends had on the civilian population of Europe, it should still prove to be powerful stuff.
It is 1957, and WWII has been over for a dozen years. People like Maximillian [Dirk Borgarde], who was a proud Nazi officer in a concentration camp, have melted into the general population. Investigations continue, however, and Max and his old buddies are still in danger of being tried for war crimes. They are constantly on the lookout for people who might be witnesses against them. Their policy is to "File them away" whenever possible. Lucia [Charlotte Rampling] has also tried to lead a normal life. Married to a famous conductor, she has been traveling in Europe with him. In a fashionable Vienna hotel, her life comes to a crashing halt because that is where she once more encounters Max, the man who took her as his lover when she was a war prisoner and involved her in all sorts of unspeakable acts. When her husband moves on to the next city, Lucia stays behind. She again becomes Max's lover, and the movie moves on to its inevitable and tragic conclusion. Why she takes up again with such a sick man is up to the viewer to decide. To me, it is not as absurd as it might at first appear to be.
The stunningly beautiful and remarkable Rampling gives one of her greatest performances as Lucia. She is an actress who knows how to speak volumes when she is silent. [Yes, she is one of my favorites.] The late Dirk Borgarde is very good as Max. Other fine Rampling films include "Georgy Girl", "The Damned", Wings of the Dove" and "Great Expectations". Borgarde starred in a number of classic movies in the 1960s and 1970s. Among these are "Victim", "The Servant". "Accident". "Death in Venice" and "Darling".
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great essay on victim/persecutor perversion, May 9 2002
By 
Slippy (Santa Clara, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Night Porter (Widescreen) (DVD)
After first watching this film I agreed with one of the previous reviewers who stated that it was a curious addition to the Criterion Collection, not quite up to the artistic standard. But since my viewing, several weeks ago, I have been unable to go a day without contemplating it's cinematic portrayal of the more perverse aspects of the relationship between the porter and his former victim.
Portraying the Holocaust is no easy matter (duh). However, Night Porter is a bold attempt to convert the seemier perversity in an operatic manner. I'm not a survivor so can't come close to fathoming that experience, and I very much doubt that the situation depicted ever occured, but it is an expressionist portrayal into the workings between victim and persecutor and the sickening manipulation, whether intentional or not, between the two. I've heard stories of young camp guards falling in love with inmates (and the tragic results: her immediate termination; his transfer to colder regions) and this is a dramatic portrayal of such a relationship with Dirk Bogarde playing someone who was most likely demented prior to his employment at the camp. And this leads to another interesting consideration: patients running the madhouse. Every society has it's sadists/sociopaths. It's devastating to consider the Nazi's collecting these individuals and giving them unchallenged authority over their victims, encouraging ever more creative manner of carrying out their wildest most brutal fantasies.
No, Night Porter is neither a sharp historical document nor a cheerful film with a happy ending. It is, however, a bit of cinema that should provoke some thought. And, it is nicely filmed with a wonderfully maintained pace. Watch the use of night vs. day in the underworld activities of the "deactivated" nazis.
As to the DVD itself: nice transfer picturewise, but quite hissy soundwise. No extras to speak of, which is disappointing, as given the controversy that accompanied it's release it would be nice to see some contemporary reviews or protests.
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3.0 out of 5 stars My hats off to the Criterion transfer !, Feb. 15 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Night Porter (Widescreen) (DVD)
Don't expect a REVIEW of the story in the following comment:
For those who LOVED this movie while viewing it on video in the early 80s, your in for a treat with this Criterion Collection transfer. The color/contrast/sharpness makes it look almost brand new ! And the 'bleakness' of the film shines through.
That being said, did this movie REALLY need to be a part of Criterion's library ? Is it THAT good ??? Or did I just miss something ???
What starts off as a straight post WWII drama, fades into a pretensious romantic (??) kinky (for its time) character study of two people that have gone over the edge.
Unintentional sillines and manerisms kind of date this film - but it is lovely to look at - and the characters are interesting...But do we REALLY care about either one of them ??? I certainly didn't...And the bleak ending was not as depressing as it wanted to be - but it does leave you feeling empty.
I honestly think Criterion made this film more enjoyable than what it really is....GREAT job guys !
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5.0 out of 5 stars "TRISTAN + ISOLDE, later at CASANOIR", July 17 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Night Porter (Widescreen) (DVD)
It's very close to "In the Realm of the Senses" and it leaves you with that same taste you wake up to after surgery ...... what is it? Possibly FEAR, this one comes close, it peers closely into the dark heart of despair.
PLOT: Two souls connect in a concentration camp, HE, a sadistic guard, SHE, a mere child, she observes and complies; amidst all of the perversions, they bond and fall in love. [Yes, there is that odd 'Salome' sequence involving a bodypart presented as a gift to the girl, AND her amazing, erotic dance, and THAT 'merry-go-round' sequence].
CUT to a "Casablanca" moment": A seedy hotel years later, the war is over and a visiting American conductor and his wife are checking in, and who's behind the reception desk? Oh yeah - HIM! [It cuts close to that line, "Of all the places ...."; but this is not Bogart and Bergman] AND it starts all over again, he "kidnaps" her, only this time insanity reigns and this obsession with the now missing woman [hiding in his apartment] threatens to expose his WWII concentration camp accomplices.
I have never quite seen a bleaker movie. This is a mood piece, filmed in washed-out tones.
CHARLOTTE RAMPLING and DIRK BOGARDE are our spiritually and physically bound Tristan and Isolde. Bold performances, Rampling astounds, pity we see less and less of her - [she's also spectacular in "Farewell, my Lovely" with Mitchum].
Director, Liliana Cavani allegedly based this movie on a chance meeting at a concentration camp after the war.
Companion pieces? "In the Realm of the Senses", "Salo", "Last Tango in Paris".
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4.0 out of 5 stars Not likely to pop up late night on TBS., May 16 2001
By 
D. Hartley (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Night Porter, the (VHS Tape)
Despite the misleading cover photo, this is not another stab at exploitive and kitschy WW2 sick humor a la "Ilsa:She-Wolf of the SS", but a far more ambitious and artful work of cinema. Disturbing and repulsive, yet quite compelling, "The Night Porter" brilliantly uses a depiction of sado-masochism and pycho-sexual politics as an effective allusion to the horror of Hitler's Germany. Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Rampling are both broodingly decadent as a former SS officer and concentration camp survivor, respectively, who end up in a twisted, doomed relationship years after the war. You would have to search high and low to find two braver performances than Bogarde and Rampling give in this complex story (Harvey Keitel and Holly Hunter in "The Piano" comes the closest). Like the film "Seven Beauties", the "sex" you think you're watching is really a subliminal lesson on the ugly politics of facism and oppression. Obviously, this is not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but recommended for any cinema buff up for a challenge.
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The Night Porter (Widescreen)
The Night Porter (Widescreen) by Liliana Cavani (DVD - 2000)
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