The Devil Is a Woman (1935) - News Poster

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A Weakness for Complexity: An Interview with the Philosopher George M. Wilson

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In the late 1970s, an associate professor in the Philosophy department at Johns Hopkins (thesis title: "The Nature of the Natural Numbers") began publishing essays on Hollywood movies. George M. Wilson wasn't the first person to undergo this shift in specialism. At the start of the decade, Stanley Cavell had published The World Viewed, a series of "reflections on the ontology of film." But Cavell had always been concerned with how works of art enable us to think through philosophical themes such as knowledge and meaning, and he held a chair, at Harvard, in Aesthetics. Wilson differed in that he brought a range of analytic gifts to an ongoing revolution: the close reading of American cinema, conceived as part of the "auteur" policy of Truffaut and other writers at Cahiers du cinéma in the 1950s, and concertedly developed in the following decades by critics in England such as V. F.
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Marlene Dietrich Retrospective Screening at the Metrograph in NYC

Marlene Dietrich in “Shanghai Express”: mptvimages.com/IMDb

If you’re a fan of actress, camp icon, and anti-fascist Marlene Dietrich or want to learn more about her, you’re in luck. The Metrograph theater in New York City is hosting “Marlene,” a retrospective featuring 19 of Dietrich’s films. The festivities kicked off May 23 and will continue until July 8.

Marie Magdalene “Marlene” Dietrich was born in Berlin in 1901. Dietrich began her career as a vaudeville performer in Weimar Germany. She moved to Hollywood and eventually became a revered film actress, “bisexual sex symbol, willful camp icon, [and] paragon of feminine glamour” — “comfortable in top hat and tails, ballgown, or gorilla suit.” But the actress did not forget about what was happening back home in Germany; Dietrich became involved in the fight against fascism during WWII. She “used her likeness to fundraise for Jewish refugees escaping Nazi Germany and performed on Uso tours, earning her the Metal of Freedom and Légion d’honneur by the French government,” the press release details. Dietrich died in 1992 at the age of 90.

The “Marlene” retrospective will feature Dietrich’s seven films with director Josef von Sternberg: “The Blue Angel,” “Morocco,” “Blonde Venus,” “Dishonored,” “Shanghai Express,” “The Devil Is A Woman,” and “The Scarlet Empress.” The actress’ collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock (“Stage Fright”), Orson Welles (“Touch of Evil”), and Billy Wilder (“A Foreign Affair”) are among the other films screening at the Metrograph. A documentary about Dietrich, Maximilian Schell’s “Marlene,” will also screen. All of the films, besides “Marlene,” will be shown in 35mm.

Head over to The Metrograph’s site for showtimes and more information. The featured films and their synopses are below, courtesy of the Metrograph.

Angel

1937 / 91min / 35mm

Director: Ernst Lubitsch

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Herbert Marshall, Melvyn Douglas

While English statesman Herbert Marshall worries over international affairs, his glamorous wife (Dietrich) concerns herself with, well, international affairs, beginning a tryst with a dashing stranger (Melvyn Douglas) who she only allows to know her as “Angel.” Dietrich’s last film on her Paramount contract is a spry, surprising love triangle, one of the least-known of Lubitsch’s essential works from his Midas touch period.

Blonde Venus

1932 / 93min / 35mm

Director: Josef Von Sternberg

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Herbert Marshall, Cary Grant

A.k.a “The One with the Gorilla Suit,” which Dietrich dons to perform her big number “Hot Voodoo.” It’s all for a good cause: she’s an ex-nightclub chanteuse who’s gone back to work to pay for husband Herbert Marshall’s radium poisoning treatments, though she later allows herself to become the plaything of Cary Grant’s dashing young millionaire, earning only contempt for her sacrifice.

Der Blaue Engel

1930 / 106min / 35mm

Director: Josef Von Sternberg

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Emil Jannings, Kurt Gerron, Rosa Valetti

Mild-mannered, uptight schoolteacher Emil Jannings lives a faultlessly law-abiding, by-the-book existence, but it’s all over when he gets a glimpse of Dietrich’s nightclub chanteuse Lola-Lola, and is immediately ready to ruin himself for her amusement. The first collaboration between Dietrich and von Sternberg made her an international star, and linked her forever to her seductive, world-weary delivery of the song “Falling in Love Again.” We’re showing the German-language version, preceded by a four-minute-long Dietrich screen test.

Desire

1936 / 95min / 35mm

Director: Frank Borzage

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper, John Halliday, William Frawley

Dietrich and Gary Cooper reunite in this delightful urbane comedy by Borzage, a master of romantic delirium, here working somewhat after the style of producer Ernst Lubitsch. La Dietrich’s stylish jewel thief stashes a clutch of pearls in the pocket of an upstanding American businessman, and while trying to get back the goods she can’t help but notice the big lug isn’t half bad-looking. An excuse to recall the following lines from the 1936 Times review: “Lubitsch, the Gay Emancipator, has freed Dietrich from von Sternberg’s artistic bondage.” Those were the days.

Destry Rides Again

1939 / 94min / 35mm

Director: George Marshall

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, James Stewart, Mischa Auer, Charles Winninger

Jimmy Stewart, still in his rangy, impossibly-good-looking phase, is a marshal who sets out to clean up the wide-open town of Bottleneck without firing a shot in this charming Western musical comedy. The local roughnecks present him one kind of challenge; Dietrich’s saloon singer Frenchy, belting out her rowdy standard “The Boys in the Back Room,” quite another.

The Devil Is A Woman

1935 / 80min / 35mm

Director: Josef Von Sternberg

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Lionel Atwill, Edward Everett Horton

Dietrich and von Sternberg’s final collaboration, and an apotheosis of sorts. In Spain in the early years of the 20th century, Lionel Atwill’s loyal suitor Pasqualito and the revolutionary Cesar Romero are teased into a frenzy by legendary coquette Concha (Guess who?). The coolly scrolling camera and baroque compositions are courtesy of an uncredited Lucien Ballard and Von Sternberg himself, doing double duty as cinematographer.

Dishonored

1931 / 91min / 35mm

Director: Josef Von Sternberg

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Victor McLaglen

Dietrich plays X-27, a Mata Hari-esque spy for the Austrian Secret Service tasked with using a bevy of costume changes (Russian peasant, feathered helmet, leather jumpsuit) to gather information on the Russians during World War I. Outrageous plotting, high chiaroscuro style, and the star’s earthy sensuality mark this unforgettable pre-code treasure, beloved by Godard and Fassbinder both. Says Victor McLaglen: “the more you cheat and the more you lie, the more exciting you become.”

A Foreign Affair

1948 / 116min / 35mm

Director: Billy Wilder

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Jean Arthur, John Lund, Millard Mitchell

Against the backdrop of a ruined postwar Berlin, another conflict is just heating up, as Dietrich’s cabaret singer with rumored Nazi ties vies with Jean Arthur’s Iowa congresswoman-on-a-fact-finding-mission for the affection of American officer John Lund. Wilder’s penultimate collaboration with co-writer Charles Brackett is a black comic delight full of crackling, piquant dialogue, and Dietrich’s knowing slow-burn has never been better.

Judgment At Nuremberg

1961 / 186min / 35mm

Director: Stanley Kramer

Cast: Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Marlene Dietrich, Maximilian Schell, Judy Garland, Montgomery Clift, William Shatner

Dietrich’s last truly substantial screen appearance came as part of the ensemble for Kramer’s courtroom drama, playing the widow of a German general executed by the Allies who’s befriended by investigating judge Spencer Tracy in this fictionalized retelling of the events of a 1947 military tribunal addressing war crimes by civilians under the Third Reich. Rounding out the all-star cast are Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Judy Garland, William Shatner, and Maximilian Schell, who would win the Academy Award for Best Actor, and later directed a portrait of Dietrich.

The Lady Is Willing

1942 / 92min / 35mm

Director: Mitchell Leisen

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Fred MacMurray, Aline MacMahon, Stanley Ridges

Leisen, considered a comic talent on-par with Lubitsch during the screwball era, lends characteristic sparkle to this mid-career attempt at reconfiguring Dietrich’s very 1930s star persona to fit the needs of the 1940s women’s picture; here she plays a glamor-gal diva whose life changes when she discovers a baby on Eighth Avenue and decides to adopt, passing through melodramatic coincidences and a vale of tears before falling into the arms of Fred MacMurray.

Lola

1981 / 113min / 35mm

Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Cast: Barbara Sukowa, Armin Mueller-stahl, Mario Adorf, Matthias Fuchs

Dietrich had for all purposes retired from the screen by the time that Fassbinder began his frontal assault on West German popular culture, but her image and her unlikely combination of cool irony and torrid emotion left a profound mark on his films. Lola, the candy-colored, late-1950s-set capstone of his “Brd Trilogy” in particular draws heavily from The Blue Angel, with bordello singer Barbara Sukowa torn between Mario Adorf’s sugar daddy and Armin Mueller-Stahl’s incoming building commissioner in boomtown Coburg.

Marlene

1984 / 94min / Digital

Director: Maximilian Schell

More than twenty years after Schell had co-starred with Dietrich in Judgment at Nuremberg, during which period she’d retired to a life of very private seclusion, he tried to get her to participate in a documentary about her life. She finally gave in — sort of. Dietrich offered only her memories and her famous voice, refusing to appear on camera, but necessity became a boon to the resulting film, a sort of guided tour of Dietrich’s life and work, which simultaneously reveals much and deepens her mystery.

Morocco

1930 / 92min / 35mm

Director: Josef Von Sternberg

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper, Adolphe Menjou

After The Blue Angel, shot in Germany, was a hit, von Sternberg was given full run of the Paramount backlot, where he would conjure up all manner of exotic destinations out of thin air. First stop: North Africa, where French legionnaire Gary Cooper competes with sugar daddy Adolphe Menjou for the favors of Dietrich’s cabaret star Amy Jolly, who in one scene famously rocks a men’s tailcoat and plants a smooch on a female fan.

Rancho Notorious

1952 / 89min / 35mm

Director: Fritz Lang

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Arthur Kennedy, Mel Ferrer, William Frawley

Teutons Lang and Dietrich team up in a Technicolor wild west of deliberate, garish artifice in this singularly claustrophobic oater, in which a revenge-mad Burt Kennedy goes looking for his fiancée’s killers at a hideaway inn run by Dietrich, and discovers dangerous, unbidden desires instead. As the chant of the film’s recurring, persecutorial Brechtian ballad goes: “Hate, murder, and revenge.”

The Scarlet Empress

1934 / 104min / 35mm

Director: Josef Von Sternberg

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, John Lodge, Sam Jaffe, Louise Dresser

Have ever a screen persona and a historical personage found such a hand-in-glove-fit as did Dietrich and Empress Catherine the Great of Russia? While the Motion Picture Production Code was preparing to chasten American movies, Dietrich and von Sternberg got together to throw one last lavish S & M orgy, a flamboyant film of 18th century palace intrigues and ludicrously lapidary décor.

Shanghai Express

1932 / 82min / 35mm

Director: Josef Von Sternberg

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Clive Brook, Anna May Wong

“It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily,” proclaims Marlene Dietrich with the disdain of an empress, though in fact she’s a high-class courtesan, re-encountering former lover Clive Brook on an express train rolling through civil war-wracked China. The fourth of Dietrich and von Sternberg’s collaborations is a riot of delirious chinoiserie artifice and sculpted shadowplay — Dietrich’s co-star Anna May Wong was never again shot so caressingly.

The Song Of Songs

1933 / 90min / 35mm

Director: Rouben Mamoulian

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Brian Aherne, Lionel Atwill

So often the instrument of corruption, Mamoulian’s film allows Dietrich to be the corrupted one, playing a country girl, Lily, who comes to big-city Berlin and quickly becomes the model and muse of sculptor Brian Aherne. Lionel Atwill’s preening decadent Baron von Merzbach admires Lily’s nude form in marble, and decides to bring the original home with him, where she slips into the role of the cynical sophisticate, though her heart remains with the artist.

Stage Fright

1950 / 110min / 35mm

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Jane Wyman, Michael Wilding, Richard Todd, Alastair Sim

Hitchcock’s last film in his native England until 1972’s Frenzy is an audaciously-structured thriller, making use of an extended flashback and a whiplash narrative about-face. Acting student Jane Wyman tries to save beau Robert Todd from taking the fall for a murder committed by stage star Dietrich, who shows her hypnotic charm in a show-stopper performance of “I’m the Laziest Gal in Town.”

Touch Of Evil

1958 / 95min / 35mm

Director: Orson Welles

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Orson Welles

It’s not the size of the part, but what you do with it. Playing a brothel keeper in a seedy border town in Welles’s magnificently baroque late noir, Dietrich only has a clutch of lines, but they’re the ones you remember, whether her famous requiem for crooked cop Hank Quinlan, or her reading of his “fortune”: “Your future’s all used up.” Bold and self-evidently brilliant, you could use Touch of Evil to explain the concept of great cinema to a visiting Martian.

Marlene Dietrich Retrospective Screening at the Metrograph in NYC was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
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The Saga of Anatahan

Take one fiercely individual auteur fed up with the Hollywood game, put him in Kyoto with a full Japanese film company, and the result is a picture critics have been trying to figure out ever since. It’s a realistic story told in a highly artificial visual style, in un-subtitled Japanese. And its writer-director intended it to play for American audiences.

The Saga of Anatahan

Blu-ray

Kino Lorber

1953 / B&W / 1:37 flat Academy / 91 min. / Anatahan, Ana-ta-han / Street Date April 25, 2017 / available through Kino Lorber / 29.95 Starring: Akemi Negishi, Tadashi Suganuma, Kisaburo Sawamura, Shoji Nakayama, Jun Fujikawa, Hiroshi Kondo, Shozo Miyashita, Tsuruemon Bando, Kikuji Onoe, Rokuriro Kineya, Daijiro Tamura, Chizuru Kitagawa, Takeshi Suzuki, Shiro Amikura.

Cinematography: Josef von Sternberg, Kozo Okazaki

Film Editor: Mitsuzo Miyata

Original Music: Akira Ifukube

Special Effects: Eiji Tsuburaya

Written by Josef von Sternberg from the novel by Michiro Maruyama & Younghill Kang

Produced by Kazuo Takimura

Directed by Josef von Sternberg
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Josef Von Sternberg’S Anatahan (1953)

One of the most unusual, and unusually moving swansongs in cinema history, Josef Von Sternberg’s Anatahan (a.k.a. The Saga of Anatahan) returns to American screens this spring in a new restoration which seems destined not to only buff up the movie’s obvious visual splendor but also its standing as an essential and fully engaged work of a master Hollywood stylist rather than simply a curious end post to a remarkable career.

In the early ‘50s Sternberg was coming off two movies made for Howard Hughes—the gorgeously sublimated cold-war adventure Jet Pilot (finished in 1950 but cut extensively by Hughes and held up for release until 1957) and Macao (1952), on which Sternberg and Hughes clashed again, resulting in the director’s replacement by Nicholas Ray. Disillusioned by Hollywood, Sternberg, a long-time devotee of Japanese culture, capitalized on his separation from Hughes and began investigating the possibility, one he
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Anatahan (1953)| Review

Island of Lost Souls: Von Sternberg’s Lost Post-Colonial Swan Song Resurrected

Best remembered for his indelible string of films starring Marlene Dietrich in the early 1930s, from their iconic 1930 breakthrough The Blue Angel to the string of English language films which ended in their sixth title, 1935’s The Devil is a Woman, Austrian import Josef Von Sternberg’s tortured filmography following the dissolution of his relationship with his muse are all items which have, for the most part, fallen into obscurity.

Continue reading...
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The War Isn’t Over In Trailer For Josef von Sternberg’s Newly Restored ‘Anatahan’

Kino Lorber is issuing a new 2K restoration of Josef von Sternberg’s final film “Anatahan“ in theaters next month. Von Sternberg was a prominent figure in the late silent-movie era of the ’20s and transitioned easily to sound pictures. In his 1930 film, “The Blue Angel,” he introduced Marlene Dietrich to the world; they would collaborate together on six more pictures, including “Morocco” (1930), “Blonde Venus” (1932) and “The Devil Is A Woman” (1935).

Continue reading The War Isn’t Over In Trailer For Josef von Sternberg’s Newly Restored ‘Anatahan’ at The Playlist.
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Don’T Bother To Knock (1952)

The icon-establishing performances Marilyn Monroe gave in Howard HawksGentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) and in Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot (1959) are ones for the ages, touchstone works that endure because of the undeniable comic energy and desperation that sparked them from within even as the ravenous public became ever more enraptured by the surface of Monroe’s seductive image of beauty and glamour. Several generations now probably know her only from these films, or perhaps 1955’s The Seven-Year Itch, a more famous probably for the skirt-swirling pose it generated than anything in the movie itself, one of director Wilder’s sourest pictures, or her final completed film, The Misfits (1961), directed by John Huston, written by Arthur Miller and costarring Clark Gable and Montgomery Clift.

But in Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) she delivers a powerful dramatic performance as Nell, a psychologically devastated, delusional, perhaps psychotic young woman apparently on
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Devil in a Blue Dress | Blu-ray Review

Director Carl Franklin followed the success of 1992’s break-out thriller One False Move with his most notable work to date, Devil in a Blue Dress (1995), a Los Angeles neo noir recuperating post-war racial tensions within the confines of the divisive city, filtered through a glop of familiar genre motifs and superb command of tone and mood. Starring Denzel Washington and based on a novel by Walter Mosley, the box office failings of the film curbed additional adaptations of the author’s work featuring reluctant private eye Easy Rawlins. Twenty years after its premiere, the film has maintained an unprecedented level of critical acclaim assisting its sterling reputation. As far as noir goes, we’ve seen this sort of narrative before, a beautiful woman with particularly damning information and labyrinthine connections involved in a dangerous mixture of sex and politics, but never from the perspective of a black private eye in a viciously segregated America.
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Movies This Week: June 20-26, 2014

The Austin Film Society has teamed up with Dan Halstead of Portland's Kung Fu Theater to host the 2nd annual "Old School Kung Fu Weekend" at the Marchesa. Three films will screen tonight and three more tomorrow, all directly from rare 35mm prints. The lineup is top secret and most of the movies have never before played in town. Passes are available for the entire series or individual tickets will be sold at the door, capacity permitting.

The Afs Screening Room hosts an Avant Cinema screening on Wednesday night of the 1947 film Dreams That Money Can Buy, created by avant-garde masters Hans Richter, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Max Ernst, Fernand Leger, Alexander Calder and John Cage. Thursday night's Essential Cinema selection is Abel Gance's J'Accuse. Presented in a Dcp of a recent restoration, this 1919 silent classic presents a love triangle between a soldier, his wife and her lover during World War I.
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That Obscure Object of Desire

(Luis Buñuel, 1977, Studio Canal, 15)

In his final movie the 77-year-old Luis Buñuel is at his most puckishly anarchic and insouciantly surreal with an updated version of an early 20th-century novel by Pierre Louÿs, filmed four times previously, most famously in 1935 by Von Sternberg and Dietrich as The Devil is a Woman. Co-scripted by his regular writer, Jean-Claude Carrière, it stars the great Spanish actor Fernando Rey as Mathieu, a pathetic, rich philanderer regaling his fellow railway passengers with the story of being led up the garden path of a poisoned Eden by an alluringly unattainable young woman. She's played by two women – Carole Bouquet representing her cool northern side, Ángela Molina her hot, earthy, Mediterranean aspect – and it's part of the old master's skill that we rapidly accept the capricious duo as a single person.

Meanwhile the besotted Mathieu is oblivious to the terrorist outrages masterminded by the "Revolutionary Army
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

Marlene Dietrich Movie Schedule: Stage Fright, Rancho Notorious, Kismet

Marlene Dietrich on TCM Pt.2: A Foreign Affair, The Blue Angel Schedule (Et) and synopses from the TCM website: 6:00 Am The Monte Carlo Story (1957) Two compulsive gamblers fall in love on the French Riviera. Dir: Samuel A. Taylor. Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Vittorio De Sica, Arthur O'Connell. C-101 mins, Letterbox Format. 7:45 Am Knight Without Armour (1937) A British spy tries to get a countess out of the new Soviet Union. Dir: Jacques Feyder. Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Robert Donat, Irene Van Brugh. Bw-107 mins. 9:45 Am The Lady Is Willing (1942) A Broadway star has to find a husband so she can adopt an abandoned child. Dir: Mitchell Leisen. Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Fred MacMurray, Aline MacMahon. Bw-91 mins. 11:30 Am Kismet (1944) In the classic Arabian Nights tale king of the beggars enters high society to help his daughter marry a handsome prince. Dir: William Dieterle. Cast: Ronald Colman, Marlene Dietrich, James Craig.
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Marlene Dietrich on TCM Pt.2: A Foreign Affair, The Blue Angel, Manpower

Marlene Dietrich on TCM: Shanghai Express, The Scarlet Empress, The Devil Is A Woman Raoul Walsh's unpretentious Manpower (1941) is a surprisingly entertaining drama about a love triangle featuring good-time gal Marlene Dietrich and unlikely partners Edward G. Robinson and George Raft. As an ex-Nazi chanteuse/black marketer (photo), Dietrich nearly steals the show in Billy Wilder's post-war Berlin-set A Foreign Affair (1948); I say nearly because Jean Arthur is Dietrich's equal as the goody-goody American congresswoman who learns that goody-goodiness may take you far at work (at least in the movies) but not in life. In the hands of someone like Ernst Lubitsch, A Foreign Affair would have been a humorously romantic masterpiece, cleverly and subtly interweaving the personal, the social, and the political. As it is, the comedy works great whenever Arthur and Dietrich are on-screen; else, A Foreign Affair suffers from Wilder's heavy hand; lapses in judgment in Wilder,
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Marlene Dietrich on TCM: Shanghai Express, The Scarlet Empress, The Devil Is A Woman

Marlene Dietrich is Turner Classic Movies last "Summer Under the Stars" star of 2011. Today, TCM is showing 12 Marlene Dietrich movies, in addition to J. David Riva's 2001 documentary Marlene Dietrich: Her Own Song. Riva, I should add, is the son of Maria Riva and Dietrich's grandson. [Marlene Dietrich Movie Schedule.] Unfortunately, TCM isn't presenting any Marlene Dietrich movie premieres today. In other words, no Dietrich opposite David Bowie in Just a Gigolo, or Dietrich next to Jean Gabin in Martin Roumagnac / The Room Upstairs, or any of Dietrich's little-known German-made silents, e.g., Ich küsse Ihre Hand, Madame / I Kiss Your Hand, Madame; Das Schiff der verlorenen Menschen / The Ship of Lost Men; and Gefahren der Brautzeit / Dangers of the Engagement. None of the silents are exactly what I'd call good movies — nor is Just a Gigolo — but they all are worth a look if only because Dietrich is in them. Another option for
See full article at Alt Film Guide »

The Forgotten: Capriccio Espagnol

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Certainly there are lots of books which have been filmed far more times than Pierre Louÿs' The Woman and the Puppet, but his book has the distinction of having formed the basis for four widely varying masterpieces, or so I'd argue.

The book, in which a poor factory girl drives a middle-aged nobleman to sexual distraction by incessantly leading him on, then spurning him, became Buñuel's final film, That Obscure Object of Desire (1977). Famously, Don Luis cast two actresses in the role of the schizoid heroine, but declined to follow standard logic by having one play consistently hot, the other cold.

Only slightly less celebrated is Josef von Sternberg's last Dietrich vehicle, The Devil is a Woman (1935), flaunting the Production Code by having Dietrich tease two men to the point of murder, and blithely get away with it. Her victims are Lionel Atwill and Cesar Romero (real-life
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[DVD Review] Mutiny on the Bounty

The Academy Awards are so obviously pointless that it’s much more clichéd these days to describe them as a masturbatory gala of self-congratulation than defend them with any seriousness. Well, of course they’re an onanistic exercise: imagine General Mills, Post and Kellogg’s holding a televised breakfast cereal of the year award. Yes, Hollywood movies are sometimes art, but they’re cultural product first and foremost, and, along with television and music, they make up America’s largest export industry.

So doubly irrelevant, you might continue, is the award of “Best Picture.” But you’d be wrong. True, the list of Best Picture winners hardly matches the list of the best Hollywood films, and, especially recently, contains a lot of out and out stinkers (Crash, anyone?) But they show what the industry considered, in any given year, its most serious and important work. It’s an intra-democratic process of self-criticism,
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