Wednesday, January 27, 2010

#358: Pandora's Box

(G.W. Pabst, 1929)

Pandora's Box is most famous for making its lead, Louise Brooks, an international star in the final days of silent films. The plot, about a woman who is sexually promiscuous and forces an editor to marry him before accidentally shooting him in a struggle, could easily be made today, but is not particularly interesting. So I wasn't looking forward to the movie, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised. I wouldn't go so far as to call the film a classic, but it's a strong film with some really interesting filmmaking and a decidedly modern look at sexuality, complete with pimps, lesbians, and Jack the Ripper.

The best scene in the film is the scene of Lulu shooting her husband. In the lead up, there are two great shots: one of the husband appearing in a mirror behind her, and another of just the hand of her husband giving her the gun, with Lulu front and center in the shot. Both are reminiscent of the best German expressionism

One interesting thing in the essay for the film is how easily silent movies can be cut to mean other things:
In France, Pandora’s Box was reedited so that Alwa was Schön’s secretary and the countess became Lulu’s childhood friend. Lulu was found innocent and Jack the Ripper vanished altogether. Before the movie was shown in New York, its ending was improved to have Lulu join the Salvation Army. Small wonder that the New York Times deemed it “a disconnected melodrama.”
 Pretty weird.

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