The von Sternberg/Dietrich thread

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It's filled to the brim with ambiguity and looseness! Marlene undertakes a seemingly noble act (returning to work in order to pay for her dying husband's travel expenses) and then shacks up with Cary the second he's gone. And then flees with her son when her husband returns. And rather than paint any of her actions as inherently wrong or selfish, the film allows her to be fairly sympathetic throughout while the males pursuing her are given the role of moral scolds. And that ending! Two people who clearly know that their relationship is over sticking together for love of the child, while the kid swaddles himself in warm folds of nostalgia to ignore the wrongness he feels in the room. The very final scene near killed me. Great lush Von Sternbergian setpieces (the cafe where she runs into the detective, the women's flophouse, the utterly bizarre yet strangely beguiling gorilla suit number). And Dietrich was mesmerizing throughout. Yeah, I pretty much loved it.

Stefan Twerkelle (Old Lunch), Sunday, 7 March 2021 12:53 (one year ago) link

Booming post, Old Lunch.

I don't recall viewing the ending as ambiguously as you did, but I find it easy to ignore a most post-Code 30s and 40s films' endings (e.g., Lang's Ministry of Fear which I just watched and ends with an absurdly cheerful wedding preparation joke between two people who should be psychologically shattered by their recent experiences).

I'd add the opening segment where Marshall and friends stumble on the bathing women to the setpiece list. Totally dreamy, which seems like a purely aesthetic choice at first but then makes works perfectly as that meeting story becomes the child's bedtime myth version of his parents.

rob, Sunday, 7 March 2021 14:59 (one year ago) link

Indeed, OL. Now I'm going to rewatch it.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 7 March 2021 15:05 (one year ago) link

Very good point about the opening sequence, rob. It feels even more dreamlike given that the movie shifts hard into another gear just afterwards.

Also flappy, although technically post-Code it's still very pre-Code in spirit (but how many films were really affected by Hays before the studios' self-enforcement in '34?). See the skin on display in that opening scene, por ejemplo.

Stefan Twerkelle (Old Lunch), Sunday, 7 March 2021 17:18 (one year ago) link

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