Archive for Pandora’s Box

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.)

Jaime N. Christley

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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 Father’s Day Intertitle: Fire!

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , on June 17, 2018 by dcairns

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…?