Sunday, August 22, 2010

#171 Die Büchse Der Pandora [Pandora's Box] (1929)


Director: Georg Wilhelm Pabst

Cast: Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner, Francis Lederer, Carl Goetz, Krafft-Raschig, Alice Roberts

All hail the dark lady: the innocent temptress who brings disaster and demise to everyone she meets. She is perhaps the most infamous femme-fatale in all of Hollywood history, both unaware and acutely in-tune with her sultry sexuality as she destroys all within her path. Lulu (Louise Brooks) is an unstoppable force, comparable only to Pandora of Greek mythology-- a charming beauty, who through innocent curiosity unleashes hell on the world.

Lulu is a dancer. Or a prostitute. Or both. But most notably, however, she is the mistress of a highly esteemed newspaper editor, Dr. Schön. He, along with everyone else, is wrapped around her little finger, and despite his plans for marriage to another, he continues to see Lulu. She famously claims, "You'll have to kill me to get rid of me!" To which Dr. Schön will explain to his son Alwa as, "Beware of that woman. She is not the kind of woman you marry. It would be suicide."

When Schön is caught cheating on his fiance with Lulu, he is forced to marry Lulu instead. When an argument between the just-married couple (over Lulu's flirtation) ends in murder, Lulu begins an adventure with his son Alwa that leads only to more disaster. The film also features one of the first hints of lesbian love in Hollywood through the character of Countess Anna Geschwitz, who just like all the others, is infatuated with Lulu. Just as well, this is also Hollywood's first attempt into the mind of a serial killer, as the end of the film features Jack the Ripper in foggy London who encounters Lulu's charm on a cold holiday night in December.

This film is particularly special to me as it is the inspiration for my all-time favorite musician's latest album: Rufus Wainwright's "All Days Are Night: Songs for Lulu." On his album and on his tour, he pays homage to the dark lady within us all (appropriately named Lulu and based off of this character), and his live stage performance for the album includes a dramatic interpretation of the album through visuals, costume, and music.

Needless to say, my expectations for this film were beyond high, and I was not disappointed. Louise Brooks was an extremely intense screen-presence which surprised me greatly. Being one of my first full-length silent films, I was settling in for a long, tedious watching-experience, but instead was actually quite surprised to find it so captivating and visually-stunning. I appreciated not only the amazingly dark story, but I found the form of acting in this German expressionist film to be refreshing and new. (Yes I realize those are strange words to describe something so old!)

It seems that Lulu is destined to repeat this doomed fate over and over again for eternity in some other dimension-- her story is so timeless. Perhaps it is because there is so much Lulu in each of us, especially amongst today's sexual-culture.

We love Lulu but cannot deny her hand in the always-present downfall.
Salacious and naughty and erotic and heart-breaking.

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