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Before a few days ago, I had never heard the name of Leon Blum. This man was thrice the Prime Minister of France. He was a leader in the Popular Front, a socialist movement that had great power in France before the second world war. He was taken prisoner in World War II by the Nazis, and lived through the end of the war in the Buchenwald concentration camp. He was Jewish. And I had never heard his name until I got Leon Blum: For All Mankind on DVD from First Run Features.
This is a man whose life ought to be celebrated. Moreso than it already is, I guess. I assume that the reason I didn’t know his name is that he is not celebrated enough. Or maybe I have been reading all the wrong history books. In a tight 58 minutes, director Jean Bodon has presented the man’s entire life, as described by a number of French historians and a very few surviving contemporaries. It’s a fascinating look at the life of a fascinating man. So watch it.
That being said, you will get a little more out of the experience if you understand French. The subtitles are short and concise, and they move the story along efficiently. But they do leave out a lot of what the speaker is saying – for example, one of the stories is about one of Blum’s friends who was executed by the Nazis. From the subtitles, that’s all the story you get. But the person telling the story goes into more detail – the man was taken out into the woods and shot three times in his head as he exited his car. Small details, I know. But they do give the story more life. And this is a story that deserves as much life as it can get.