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Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Blue Angel (aka Der Blaue Engel) (1930)

When a prudish professor (Emil Jannings) at a college preparatory school discovers that his students are spending nights at the local cabaret, The Blue Angel, in order to see the sexy star attraction Lola Lola (Marlene Dietrich), he goes there in the hopes of catching the boys but instead becomes bewitched with Lola and thus begins his downfall and humiliation. Directed by Josef von Sternberg, this is the film that made an international Star of Marlene Dietrich, who would soon go to Hollywood to begin her iconic career. I'm not an admirer of the actress but she's superb here. Coarse, common, aimless in her sexuality, you can see why a middle aged, lonely man could fall under her spell. Dietrich may be on the plump side here but I prefer her engaging naturalness to the soulless glamorous persona she would perfect in Hollywood. But the film is not all about Dietrich. Jannings is also heartbreaking (his breakdown on stage is disturbingly well done) but the film is a startling examination of a man's fibre and pride unraveling and the film remained the benchmark for films on compulsive, sexual obsession, at least until Kubrick's LOLITA came along. Made concurrently in English in a somewhat shorter version.

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