Archive for Brigitte Helm

Devious

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on October 9, 2020 by dcairns

I got an email from my New York chum Jaime Christley about GW Pabst’s ABWEGE, streamed from Pordenone, and I liked it so much it put me off writing anything about the film myself, so I’m just publishing it here.

Frame-grabs are by Jaime and also Mark Fuller, who can get them to work even though I can’t, suddenly.

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I forgot I’d already seen ABWEGE but yes, it looked great. One of Pabst’s most haunting images is the junkie at the party – MORE haunting after she’s had her fix than before. Pabst can go toe to toe with anybody in depicting the gilded rot of the continental leisure class of that era, but even with his talent for vivid, packed images, he’s a lot more sly than he lets on. Plenty of “let the audience put 2 and 2 together.”

Maybe too much Gustav Diessl and his furrowed brow? Lang knew well enough in THE TESTAMENT OF DR. MABUSE that a little Diessl goes a long way. (Actually, looking at what I’ve seen him in – several Pabsts! – I tend to like him. I don’t know what makes him come across like a paperweight here….. might just be my mood.)

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DC again. Note: Diessl famously plays Jack the Ripper in PANDORA’S BOX, and Louise Brooks always claimed that Pabst cast him in that role because he was “her type.” Psychological manipulation being Pabst’s metier.

The only other thing I wanted to talk about in this louche and lustrous presentation was the dancing. First we get Lutz and Lola doing their celebrated Intrepid Crouch —

Then there’s Brigitte Helm doing a startling visualisation of what it means to literally melt in a man’s arms. Impossible to represent this in still images but worth trying anyway. Sorry, I don’t know who I’m stealing this frame-grab from:

Wait, yes I do, Donna Hill. Thanks!

Helm’s entire form becomes snakelike, bending seductively in places it shouldn’t be able to bend, like the serpentine woman in THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, then she takes it further and becomes a snake made of butter dancing in an oven. It is something to see.

The Easter Sunday Intertitle: The Mill at World’s End

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on April 12, 2020 by dcairns

This is the magnificent but slightly baffling opening sequence of Karl Grune’s AM RANDE DER WELT (AT THE END OF THE WORLD, 1927). Grune is a somewhat obscure German silent director — are ANY of his films commercially available? DIE STRASSE is known mainly for one atmospheric still photograph.

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Really incredible sets — but few of them — the film takes place entirely in and around a windmill standing on the border between one fictional, unnamed country that looks exactly like Germany, and another fictional, unnamed country that looks exactly like Germany. Everything is lovely except for the enemy spy in the midst of ou miller family, and then — war comes!

The film stars Brigitte Helm, in Good Maria mode, sadly, and the Iron Stove himself, Wilhelm Dieterle, later a terrific Hollywood director, here a lumbering German actor, with sculpted features and an over-stuffed torso. Most of the principal cast spend the entire film dusted in flour, a fashion choice that should be adopted more widely. It makes them interesting. You can’t look away from any performance that’s being delivered through a chalky coating. Try it and see.

This should be a gripping little thriller — Grune has the unchained camera on his side — but everything is a bit ponderous and would-be-allegorical. It doubtless plays better on the big screen.

Everything is splendidly designed, except maybe intertitles, which I suspect are modern replacements, and the bucket-headed military uniforms, Hugo Boss was unavailable. But when a hand knocks on a door, the elaborate wooden panelling has been crafted to create the impression of sound waves radiating out.

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Elsewhere, stacks of flour sacks create threatening shapes, and the colossal cogwheels slowly grind overhead in a suitably menacing way.

The man responsible for both sets and costumes was Robert Neppach, previously unknown to me. His movie career ended with the rise of Nazism and he escaped to Switzerland.

When one of the good guys escapes disguised as a soldier, he appears to greet another uniformed man with a Hitlerian salute.

And, wearing a big daft nappy, DEATH bestrides the land.

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Shang a Lang

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , on June 16, 2014 by dcairns

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On drums — Fritz Lang. Saxophone — Brigitte “Bleeding Gums” Helm. And on keyboards, vocals, and National Socialism, Thea Von Harbou.