The Father’s Day Intertitle: Fire!

To the Filmhouse for PANDORA’S BOX! A film I hadn’t seen all the way through in so long, maybe I’d never seen it all the way through! And never is a very long time.

I couldn’t get on with the music — recorded, rather than live. The Weill/cabaret style was appropriate, I just disagreed viscerally with the composer about which scenes were meant to have a grotesque comic edge, and which were “straight” (surely SOME of them). As music, it was fine, I just didn’t like it for this film.

So it took me a very long time to get into the movie, even though it was all unfolding as if new, and looked incredible. By the time of the wedding I was into it, and by the time of the gambling ship — where it becomes clear that this story is going to hell and nothing can stop it and total disaster can be expected for every character — I was riveted.

Louise Brooks is the kind of natural almost unique to silent cinema. Surrounded by expressionists, she just exists.

I really shouldn’t use this movie for father’s Day, though — Lulu’s dad, Schigolch, is pretty much the cause of everything that goes wrong in this movie. He’s awful! And he gets the only happy ending, though it’s but a fleeting moment.

From Pamela Hutchinson’s BFI Film Classics study of the movie: “Brooks identified Schigolch as the ‘hero of the story … he knows what he is, what he wants, and he perseveres in getting it,’ but he is really its greatest villain.” Villains ARE often the most ambitious and certain characters in stories, aren’t they? And in life.

Of course, PANDORA’S BOX is really a Christmas movie, perhaps the bleakest ever.

STOP PRESS: this movie is playing next Sunday at the Bo’ness Hippodrome with live accompaniment by Jane Gardner and Roddy Long. Unfortunately I can’t be there as I’ll be in Bologna. But maybe YOU can…?

 

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5 Responses to “The Father’s Day Intertitle: Fire!”

  1. So glad you went back to see it again after so long. And thanks for mentioning the book. I think we can all agree that Shigolch is a Very Bad Man, and also very certain of himself. Is it ambitious to live off your daughter, though? That’s a merry question to ponder on Father’s Day!

  2. It’s definitely an ambition, just not a very lofty one…

  3. Wonderful film but awful music. Having seen it twice at the NFT I’d rather have live music with each performance.
    SPOILER AHEAD

    The great mystery – how did the German Schigolch acquire a fondness for Christmas pudding?

  4. I didn’t get Pandora’s Box when I saw it the first time, but seeing it again earlier this year (inspired in part by seeing Pabst’s sound films, Kameradschaft and the amazing Westfront 1918) made me appreciate it with new eyes.

    When I think of bad fathers in Pandora’s Box, I think Schigolch could get in line, because you also have the other bad patriarchs, like the first boyfriend who pays court to Lulu, then the guy who runs the casino, which is skeevy enough to look forward to Shanghai Gesture.

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