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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Madame DuBarry (1919)

By way of sleeping herself to the top, a young girl (Pola Negri) rises from a milliner's assistant to the notorious mistress of King Louis XV (Emil Jannings, THE BLUE ANGEL). Directed by Ernest Lubitsch, this is a sumptuous historical epic which, in fact, is historically inaccurate and totally fabricated. If there's a sense of deja vu, it's because if you switch Madame DuBarry with Marie Antoinette, then you have seen it before in the 1938 MGM film with Norma Shearer or the 1956 French production with Michele Morgan. The famed Lubitsch touch is nowhere to be found here in this rather laborious effort. As King Louis XV, Jannings has very little to do but Negri brings a bit of impish charm to her role but it's a poorly conceived concept of Madame DuBarry. As written, she's a rather shallow, not too bright girl who makes a lot of bad decisions so it's difficult to drum up much empathy for her. The production values are first rate, I'll give it that and it might have benefited from the editor's shears. With Harry Liedtke, Reinhold Schunzel and Else Berna.

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