Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Blue Angel (Josef von Sternberg, 1930)

One of the classics of pre-World War II cinema, von Sterberg's first in a series of fruitful collaborations with Marlene Dietrich is the story of Lola Lola, a singer at The Blue Angel with whom Professor Emmanuel Rath (Emil Jannings) becomes obsessed. Professor Rath is a sad character, initially and after his tragic demise; at first, he is tortured and constantly teased by his students, who have no respect for him, and then, he is abused by the patrons of the Blue Angel, and, eventually, the members of the troupe themselves. This isn't a story about Lola Lola, although almost everyone would describe it that way. Instead, it's the story of a sad man who tries to make his life better, and fails miserably. When I put it that way, it's pretty depressing indeed. But watching the film and talking about it are two different experiences. While watching the film, I didn't dislike Lola, and instead was almost frustrated with the Professor's rigidity toward life, but while thinking about it, I realize how much of a part Lola's indifference and misunderstanding of Emmanuel caused his downfall.

Lola's musical numbers, which I thought were the reason this film was a classic, were pretty utterly forgettable, as Dietrich is charismatic but more so when she's seducing a guy one-on-one. Dietrich's Lola is an incredibly interesting, confusing character. Many of the things she does do not have any basis in logic (such as marrying the Professor, which I was sure she would not do), and instead, as in other von Sternberg films, are just means to an end - the Professor's eventual complete fall, as well as the beautiful visuals and journey the couple takes. Jannings turns in the performance one could only hope for a role this paradoxical. He turns from stuffy, self-righteous professor to literal clown in a matter of ninety completely believeable, devastating minutes. Also, anyone seen the 1959 remake? How does it hold up?


RIYL: Greta Garbo films (her only peer of her time, I think)

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