Sunday, February 23, 2014

2014 Blind Spot Series: Pandora's Box

Based on the Lulu plays by Frank Wedekind, Die Busche de Pandora (Pandora’s Box) is the story of a woman’s downward spiral as she went from being a vivacious and sexually provocative showgirl whose effects on man would have a devastating impact on those she encounters. Directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst and screenplay by Ladislaus Vajda, the film is a look into a woman whose innocent persona would lead her to trouble as well as a dark fate as the character of Lulu is played by Louise Brooks. Also starring Fritz Kortner, Francis Lederer, Carl Goetz, Krafft-Raschig, Alice Roberts, Daisy d’Ora, and Gustav Diessl. Die Busche de Pandora is an exquisite and enchanting film from G.W. Pabst.

The film is the story about a woman who is known for her entrancing sexuality and winning smile as she would fall from grace following a series of circumstances. Especially as she was a showgirl who is adored by patrons and stage directors yet is also the mistress of a revered middle-aged newspaper editor who is worried about his reputation. While she would charm her way to get what she wants, it would come at a terrible price as Lulu deals with not just her actions but the men she’s seduced and charmed as they would use her to great ruin. All of it is told in eight acts in the life of Lulu through Ladislaus Vajda’s screenplay as it explores Lulu’s rise as a woman who wears lavish clothes and lives a very posh lifestyle only to fall into places such as working in a ship and eventually become destitute.

While Lulu is a woman who dreams of having a great life where she can perform on stage and wear the finest clothes. She is also her own worst enemy as the men she seduces such as Dr. Ludwig Schon (Fritz Kortner) is a man troubled by his affair as he finds himself engaged to another woman (Daisy d’Ora) whose father is an Interior Minister for the German government. Lulu would seduce Dr. Schon into marrying her but it would be one of many things that would get her in trouble as Dr. Schon’s son Alwa (Francis Lederer) has fallen for her while she has a patron in Schigolch (Carl Goetz) and a stage director Rodrigo Quast (Krafft-Raschig) who would all use her. The only person that seems to admire her and not use her is a costume designer named Countess Augusta Geschwitz (Alice Roberts) as her admiration suggests some lesbian feelings between the two women.

G.W. Pabst’s direction is truly mesmerizing for the way he creates the shots and mood he sets in some of the moments in the film. Much of it would involve some beautiful close-ups to play into Lulu’s beauty as her smile is among one of these things that dazzles the film. It’s not just the way Pabst displays Lulu and her sexuality which is crucial to the story as it’s risqué but not overtly sexualized. He also sets an atmosphere that is very discomforting at times during the film’s fourth to sixth act where she meets a train passenger (Michael von Newlinsky) who would use her to work at an illegal gambling ship. It’s a moment that just doesn’t play into Lulu’s descent but also the air of suspense over the people that surrounds her as they all plot ways to betray her. The last two acts set in London play into that despair yet Pabst maintains that innocence in Lulu as she would unknowingly play to the fate that is set for her. Overall, Pabst crafts a very evocative film about a woman and her fall from grace.

Cinematographer Gunther Krampf does excellent work with the film‘s black-and-white photography to play with some of the film‘s lighting for many of the scenes set at night in its exterior and interior scenes along with dazzling looks for some of the daytime interior scenes. Editor Joseph Fleisler does superb work with the editing with its use of rhythmic cuts and fade-ins to play into the structure as well as the drama in the film. Art directors Andrej Andrejew and Gottlieb Hesch do fantastic work with the look of Dr. Schon’s home as well as the ship that Lulu would work at as well as the stage show held by Quast. The film’s music consists of many themes arranged and conducted by Gillian Anderson for the film’s 2006 reissue as it is largely classical with string arrangements and piano pieces all playing to themes written by the different composers in the film.

The film’s amazing cast include some notable small roles from Gustav Diessl as a man Lulu meets in the final act, Daisy d’Ora as an important woman Dr. Schon was supposed to marry, Sigfried Arno as a stage manager for the stage show early in the film, and Michael von Newlinsky as the very sly but greedy Marquis Casti-Piani. Krafft-Raschig is terrific as the stage director Rodrigo Quast who is eager to work with Lulu only to get greedy by the film’s second half. Alice Roberts is wonderful as the very androgynous costume designer Countess Augusta Geschwitz who definitely adores Lulu with very little interest towards men. Carl Goetz is excellent as Lulu’s old patron Schigolch as a man who hopes to get Lulu back on top yet conspires to do things that would play into the downfall of the characters in the film.

Francis Lederer is superb as Dr. Schon’s son Alwa as a man who is secretly in love with Lulu as he tries to write the best music for her play while dealing with the consequences of everything he had been through with her. Fritz Kortner is amazing as Dr. Ludwig Schon as a revered newspaper editor hoping to get himself up in the social game while having a very sick obsession towards Lulu. Finally, there’s Louise Brooks in a ravishing performance as Lulu as Brooks is really the star of the film with her bob haircut, her entrancing sensuality, and her winning charm as her smile is full of life while displaying a vulnerability and despair that adds to the weight of her character as it’s really an iconic performance.

Die Busche de Pandora is a remarkable film from G.W. Pabst that features a supremely delightful performance from Louise Brooks. Not only is the film one of the finest films of silent German cinema but also one that manages to not play by the rules. Especially in its approach to sexuality as it was quite risqué for its time yet also being playful. In the end, Die Busche de Pandora is a phenomenal film from G.W. Pabst.

G.W. Pabst Films: (The Treasure (1923 film)) – (Countess Donelli) – (Joyless Street) – (One Does Not Play with Love) – (The Love of Jeanne Ney) – (The Devious Path) – Diary of a Lost Girl - (The White Hell of Pitz Palu) – Westfront 1918 – (Scandalous Eva) – (The Threepenny Opera) – (Kameradschaft) – (L’Atlantide) – (Adventures of Don Quixote) – (High and Low (1933 film)) – (A Modern Hero) – (Street of Shadows) – (The Shanghai Drama) – (Girls in Distress) – (The Comedians) – (Paracelsus) – (Der Fall Molander) – (The Trial (1948 film)) – (Mysterious Shadows) – (Call Over the Air) – (Voice of Silence) – (Cose da pazzi) – (The Confession of Ina Kahr) – (The Last Ten Days) – (Jackboot Mutiny) – (Ballerina (1956 film)) – (Through the Forests and Through the Trees)

© thevoid99 2014


keith71_98 said...

I still really want to see this flick. I need to get on it! Great review.

thevoid99 said...

Thank you. It was a real surprise as well as a very touching and vivacious film that is just lovely to watch. I hope you enjoy it.

ruth said...

Fascinating choice for Blindspot, Steven. I thought at first glance that was a photo of Isabella Rosellini. Louise Brooks certainly has the entrancing looks to pull of this role.

thevoid99 said...

@ruth-Louise Brooks' look was truly ahead of its time as it's a style that's been replicated for so many years. I discovered the film through this amazing music video by OMD which you can watch here:

ruth said...

Oh cool! Thanks Steven.

thevoid99 said...

@ruth-You're welcome.

Ryan McNeil said...

Just wanted to say thanks for writing a February post! I’d leave a longer comment, but I’ve never seen Pandora's Box myself – it’s a Blind Spot for me too.

thevoid99 said...

@Ryan McNeil-I have fun doing the Blind Spot series. It gives me the chance to see something and actually say "Yes, I have seen that film". Plus, it gives me a chance to discover the evolution of cinema from the silent era to now.