528-531 Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

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HarryLong
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Re: 528-531 Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

#101 Post by HarryLong » Tue Aug 24, 2010 9:35 am

david hare wrote:Although I frankly think Lang's use of sound in Testament of Dr Mabuse even more striking.

Partly because Lang understood early on (as many exploring the new sound technology did not) the benefit of silence within a sound film (an advantage the sound film has over a silent one.
And, David, thank goodness someone has finally made the BLUE ANGEL / MOROCCO comparison. Given the former's huge reputation I didn't understand why I fel somewhat disappointed by it when I first (finally) caught up with it. Too much expectation, possibly? Too much Jannings, not enough Dietrich? Certainly MOROCCO takes much the same themes and explores them far more subtly and with more nuance.

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Re: 528-531 Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

#102 Post by liam fennell » Tue Aug 24, 2010 3:05 pm

I do certainly agree Morocco is much more sophisticated. In addition to the ending, all the stuff at the beginning when Jo is setting the mood is just sublime as well; the marching drummers (first from the back of the line, then at the front) the people praying to Mecca, the hands tapping the finger cymbals...

Maybe not worht mentioning, but for some reason I have a certain fondness for the 'magic door' to Marlene's dressing room in Blue Angel. It's so primitive/unsophisticated, but it works for me - maybe because Jo is so deliberatly artificial as an artist in general.

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Re: 528-531 Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

#103 Post by HarryLong » Tue Aug 24, 2010 4:26 pm

liam fennell wrote:I do certainly agree Morocco is much more sophisticated. In addition to the ending, all the stuff at the beginning when Jo is setting the mood is just sublime as well; the marching drummers (first from the back of the line, then at the front) the people praying to Mecca, the hands tapping the finger cymbals...

I was also thinking of the characters. Lola-Lola is little more than a slut where Amy Jolly might be of easy virtue but finds it difficult to stay with a man she does not love no matter how comfortable her life. Menjou's Le Bessiere is an infinitely more complicated character (and not just in terms of urbanity) than Jannings' professor. His philosophical attitude near the end, when he realizes Amy is going to leave far more sophisticated than anything in BLUE ANGEL.
(I might have known this once & forgotten... did Sternberg have any say on the script for BA? Or was he just handed it?)

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Re: 528-531 Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

#104 Post by cdnchris » Wed Aug 25, 2010 2:47 am


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Re: 528-531 Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

#105 Post by david hare » Wed Aug 25, 2010 4:19 am

Christ almighty!

The Docks SD transfer, and now the Gaumont Blu French Cancan transfer become definitive statements of Blu Ray (except Docks isn't! YET!!!!!!!!)

Somebody has to rescue this.....

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Re: 528-531 Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

#106 Post by Antares » Wed Aug 25, 2010 8:34 am


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Re: 528-531 Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

#107 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Aug 25, 2010 9:36 am

Even in compromised form, Docks was probably my favorite American silent (dramatic) film .... (waiting for a sale price, but may have to bite the bullet). ;~}

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Re: 528-531 Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

#108 Post by Tribe » Fri Aug 27, 2010 11:41 am

I've been slowly going through this...and it's easily the release of the year for me.

Did anyone else think that Guy Maddin staged much of Archangel based on The Last Command? I couldn't help but chuckle at the flashback Russia scenes because they looked just like similar scenes in Archangel.

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Re: 528-531 Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

#109 Post by Saturnome » Fri Aug 27, 2010 1:55 pm

I have just watched the extras (makes the set even more worth it, I think), and I'm very tempted to see The Salvation Hunters. Is it worth it? The clips looks very good.

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Re: 528-531 Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

#110 Post by david hare » Fri Aug 27, 2010 5:21 pm

It's superb!! He arrives in his first picture fully formed as a poet of light and shade. Made for under 5 grand, and all shot in natural light, including the interiors.

Gloria Hale is a revelation. Chaplin took her on for Goldrush based on this.

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Re: 528-531 Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

#111 Post by What A Disgrace » Fri Aug 27, 2010 5:29 pm

Maybe Salvation Hunters will appear as an extra on later Sternberg releases, a la Bucking Broadway on Stagecoach.

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Re: 528-531 Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

#112 Post by HerrSchreck » Sat Aug 28, 2010 5:02 pm

Perhaps if they can get Shanghai Express finally ironed out (I assume it's coming since Universal hasn't released it in R1 but have elsewhere), they can chuck it on as an extra. It really is worth seeking out, and it's in good condition too.

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Re: 528-531 Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

#113 Post by agnamaracs » Sun Aug 29, 2010 12:08 pm

Well, there we have it: the first Criterion release to involve a member of Mission of Burma (Roger Miller, also of the Alloy Orchestra).

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Re: 528-531 Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

#114 Post by scotty2 » Wed Sep 01, 2010 3:16 pm

Anyone having trouble getting the menu to show on Docks? Works on the macbook, not on the Samsung blu.

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Re: 528-531 Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

#115 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Sep 10, 2010 2:50 pm

Having seen Criterion's version, Docks of New York remains (possibly, maybe even likely) my favorite Hollywood film.

Underworld was phenomenal too. Wasn't as fond of Last Command when I last saw this (not at all recently) -- maybe my heart will soften towards it in this new version. ;~}

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Re: 528-531 Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

#116 Post by Norbie » Thu Sep 16, 2010 7:49 am

Have been watching the video essays included in the release and came across this interesting fact concerning the film that Sternberg made for Chaplin. The reason given why the film was destroyed was that Chaplin did not want to pay taxes on it, hence destroying the negative!

Was this a regular practice? It seems quite extreme to me! I wonder if this practice is one of the reasons why many silent films are lost to us?

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Re: 528-531 Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

#117 Post by HerrSchreck » Sat Sep 18, 2010 8:35 pm

Working my way through these beautiful transfers, revealing so much depth of field and gradient-layerings in the compositions, not to mention the thousand and one pieces of direction in so many individual shots will all of his extras in crowd scenes... loving it all intensely-- Bergstrom's essay, von's interview for Swedish television.

The one clunker of the set has got to be-- for me-- Tag's visual essay. To me, the most uninspired and flatlining stream-of consciousness meandering which reveals little about the films or von himself, and, instead, merely a certain modicum of insight into the way Tag thinks when he watches a beautifully photographed silent film made by a man whose decadence is beyond the realm of his own experience. I have profound respect for Tag, his work on Ford, Ophuls, and many others, but this fell flat... with the most painfully obvious comments whispered with an almost religious intensity.

With a body of work as exceptional as Tag's, I guess not getting personally rocked to the socks by all 100% of his efforts is only normal and quite expected. I just had high hopes, von being von, and Tag being Tag..

Mme Bergstrom knocked it out of the park as usual with her signature firm grasp, based on a lifetime of film obsession with all those that just happen to be my own personal faves. Vive la Bergstrom!

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Re: 528-531 Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

#118 Post by Tommaso » Fri Oct 01, 2010 5:59 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:Mme Bergstrom knocked it out of the park as usual with her signature firm grasp, based on a lifetime of film obsession with all those that just happen to be my own personal faves. Vive la Bergstrom!

I finally received my set yesterday and am just 'coming back' - because this whole set made me swoon just by LOOKING at it - from "Underworld" and that Bergstrom essay. And indeed, this might be the extra of the year. Wonderfully informative, great analysis, and it made me immediately want to grab "The Salvation Hunters" (which most likely would have been the best extra CC could have thought of for this set).

"Underworld" itself, which I didn't know before, is pretty impressive, too, but I think I let it sink in a bit before commenting on it. It's strange for me because I had seen "Thunderbolt" before it, and while that film is certainly less visually impressive (Sternberg being hampered by the demands of sound technology I guess), both played almost as twin pieces for me, with the later film expanding on the psychological aspects and 'insight' - the gangster who is 'good at heart' - which are already there in "Underworld", but not perhaps as pronounced as in "Thunderbolt". This only because of the foregoing discussion here, and as an expression of my liking of "Thunderbolt" at least on the level of narrative.

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Re: The Last Command - best picture oscar nominee?

#119 Post by SuperBlu » Sat Nov 13, 2010 1:02 pm

Does anyone know why "The Last Command" was removed from the list of 1928 Best Picture Oscar nominees? Many old sources listed it as a nominee, but it seems in 1975 the Academy removed it from the list. I found a few sites like this and this that mention the removal but no reason is given. Anyone know the story behind this?

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Re: 528-531 Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

#120 Post by matrixschmatrix » Sat Dec 18, 2010 4:57 am

HerrSchreck wrote:The one clunker of the set has got to be-- for me-- Tag's visual essay. To me, the most uninspired and flatlining stream-of consciousness meandering which reveals little about the films or von himself, and, instead, merely a certain modicum of insight into the way Tag thinks when he watches a beautifully photographed silent film made by a man whose decadence is beyond the realm of his own experience. I have profound respect for Tag, his work on Ford, Ophuls, and many others, but this fell flat... with the most painfully obvious comments whispered with an almost religious intensity.

With a body of work as exceptional as Tag's, I guess not getting personally rocked to the socks by all 100% of his efforts is only normal and quite expected. I just had high hopes, von being von, and Tag being Tag.

I'm working my way through this as well, and I was amazed to find myself bored ten minutes into Tag's essay- some of the background information about von Sternberg's entry into film was new and interesting to me, but as analysis of the movies in the set it seemed like it didn't have much to say. Did make me want to read Louise Brooks' diaries, since a lot of the most interesting stuff came from her.

In watching the Last Command, I was struck by the almost postmodern construction of the narrative, which seemed like a fairly straightforward melodrama about the Russian Revolution bracketed by a framing device that seemed deliberately to undercut the viewers' involvement with what was (to judge by the movies' version of Hollywood) a Russian picture churned out by craftsmen who made them by the dozens and actors who viewed the job with no more artistry than a steelworker in a factory.

It cuts the knees out from Jannings in a way that perversely makes him a more striking actor; he generally acts so hard that it's impossible to forget that you're watching an actor performing, but the almost Brechtian framing reminds the viewer of that anyway- and even as a general, his character seems to be putting on a show all the time. A naturalistic performance would have been nonsense in this context, and his self-absorbed intensity means the vicious slams the movie seems to make on the delusions of actors never seem to touch him.

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Re: 528-531 Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

#121 Post by Yojimbo » Thu Dec 23, 2010 2:18 pm

Just received my set today, just in time for post-Christmas turkey excess viewing! \:D/

I can't wait: I haven't seen any of these before and I'm a big fan of (most of) his Dietricks and such as 'The Shanghai Gesture'
(perhaps I'll have a Sternberg Talk/Don't Talk Mini-Festival' to celebrate its arrival)

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Re: 528-531 Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

#122 Post by JAP » Sat Jul 02, 2011 5:28 pm

Winner (ex-aequo) of the Best Box category of the Il Cinema Ritrovato Dvd Awards 2011 (complete list, in italian)

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Re: 528-531 Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

#123 Post by movielocke » Sat Apr 19, 2014 5:15 pm

I cannot believe I let this set languish on my shelf for nearly four years. These three films are just tremendous, and of the box sets I've watched from Criterion, this is the only set that comes close to Three Colors in the overall quality/rating of the films, so in terms of films alone, this is probably their second best box set.

I watched most of Sternberg's 30s films a decade ago, and haven't really seen anything of his since. I remember that Blue Angel and Morocco were very good, but Shanghai Express was the true standout--these three films blow all of them out of the water.

Underworld is superb, a proto gangster genre entry that's much better than most of the early thirties gangster efforts that get overpraised all to often. I enjoy all of those films, but like the Universal horrors of the era, hardly any rise above excellent&entertaining into the great realm. Underworld actually ranks up there with Scarface, Roaring Twenties and White Heat as one of the finest early exemplars of the genre characteristics, it's a shame this title has been overlooked for so many decades. The great performances, outstanding camera work and staging are all lovely, I loved the plotting and narrative drive of the film, just outstanding.

And then The Last Command is a true masterpiece. The narrative design of the film is bold, it incorporates self-reflexive critique of the process of filmmaking and the 'class' system of hollywood within its classic frame story/flashback structure; Sternberg thematically ties the proletariat of Hollywood to the downtrodden of Russia and the generals/tsars of Russia with the directors of Hollywood, and in doing so makes both men complete circuits of class status within his circular narrative. Emil Jannings' over-the-top scenery chewing performance is mesmerizing, though William Powell's deliberately underplayed work sometimes feels like it went a little too far in the contrast-with-Jannings direction. But the film is Jannings through and through...except when Sternberg's fabulous camera work, staging and lighting design is even more breathtaking. The long shot when the men receive their costume is brilliantly conceived and thematically potent, as the visuals convey all the crushing machinery and anonymity of Hollywood and the irony of real experience being contrasted against 'movie-movie' inventions--interestingly, this shot also made me connect Hollywood to the Military almost instantly. I'm not sure if that is because of the way Sternberg's work has been incorporated in the iconography of war films that came after, but I suspect that it is, because I feel like I have seen echoes of this shot in other films that came after of men being mustered and equipped through a military machine.

I was almost reluctant to watch Docks of New York, because surely any film would be a let down after The Last Command. But it was not. It was equally brilliant and stunningly different. The film is like Sunrise or Seventh Heaven by way of Port of Shadows. Gritty, passionate, and pulpy combine into a fantasia that feels oddly steeped in realism. I think you could say it's a mediation between romanesque "reality" and romantique "fantasy". In a sense, that's what Hollywood is always trying to do, a "magical realism," but it is so rarely pulled off, and even more rarely is it pulled off this perfectly. And don't get me wrong, I don't mean the film embraces fantasy or magic or anything like that, just that the stories I'm talking about are stories that catch the day-to-day magic of a breath, a beat, a lifting of the heart. That is what The Docks of New York is, pure human yearning. Phenomenal.

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Re: 528-531 Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

#124 Post by hearthesilence » Sat Apr 19, 2014 6:05 pm

To be honest, I may even prefer these silents over the Dietrich films. Not necessarily better, but different in a way that suits my tastes (less camp, more grittiness). Von Sternberg's visual talents seem to blossom more in silent films too.

OT, I still would love to see Thunderbolt, which I believe is more or less an early talkie remake of Underworld. Supposedly, he does try his best to experiment with sound, and there are a few critics like Jonathan Rosenbaum who actually prefer it.

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Re: 528-531 Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

#125 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun Apr 20, 2014 12:12 am

hearthesilence wrote:To be honest, I may even prefer these silents over the Dietrich films. Not necessarily better, but different in a way that suits my tastes (less camp, more grittiness). Von Sternberg's visual talents seem to blossom more in silent films too.
The films in this set (especially Docks) are pretty near perfect.

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