Archive for July 17, 2011

The Sunday Intertitle: Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 17, 2011 by dcairns

Illa Meery in Richard Oswald’s CAGLIOSTRO – LIEBE UND LEBEN EINS GROSSEN ABENTEURERS.

Known in English as THE ADVENTURES OF CAGLIOSTRO, it charts roughly the same narrative course as the Orson Welles BLACK MAGIC, despite being based upon a different novel. The conflicted attitude to the protagonist causes different but comparable problems in both films — Welles’ movie (partially directed by the Great Man himself) sets Cag up as a heroic revolutionary with a legitimate grudge, before transforming him into an out and out villain. Oswald’s portrays him as something of a scamp, but his slimy scheme to start the French Revolution a year early, motivated only by personal pique, renders him utterly unsympathetic, especially as he escapes the consequences and leaves Meery, his confederate, to take the rap –

Since my copy is a truncated English translation, I can’t tell if this is a shorthand version of a deleted scene, or just a lonely intertitler’s perverted fantasy.

Cagliostro is played by the unnaturally handsome Hans Stuwe, and expensive and imaginative production design (Lazare Meerson!) and striking expressionist photography result in a sumptuous visual spectacle, still dimly apparent in this shortened and fuzzy print. Oswald’s oeuvre, which includes the bold, sympathetic gay rights film DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHERS, and the epic LUCREZIA BORGIA, could do with restoration and reappraisal. He’s nothing if not resourceful, visually, taking particular pleasure in Cagliostro’s magic tricks.

German cinema’s first disco ball. It would not be the last.

A Wellesian flavour — see the title sequence of CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT, soon to be re-released.

Cagliostro’s magic is a lot of balls…

…crystal balls, that is.

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