109, 930-935 Dietrich & von Sternberg in Hollywood

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Matt
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109, 930-935 Dietrich & von Sternberg in Hollywood

#1 Post by Matt » Sun Jan 16, 2005 6:42 pm

Dietrich & von Sternberg in Hollywood

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Tasked by studio executives with finding the next great screen siren, visionary Hollywood director Josef von Sternberg joined forces with rising German actor Marlene Dietrich, kicking off what would become one of the most legendary partnerships in cinema history. Over the course of six films produced by Paramount in the 1930s, the pair refined their shared fantasy of pleasure, beauty, and excess. Dietrich's coolly transgressive mystique was a perfect match for the provocative roles von Sternberg cast her in—including a sultry chanteuse, a cunning spy, and the hedonistic Catherine the Great—and the filmmaker captured her allure with chiaroscuro lighting and opulent design, conjuring fever-dream visions of exotic settings from Morocco to Shanghai. Suffused with frank sexuality and worldly irony, these deliriously entertaining masterpieces are landmarks of cinematic artifice.

Morocco

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With this romantic reverie, Marlene Dietrich made her triumphant debut before American audiences and unveiled the enthralling, insouciant persona that would define her Hollywood collaboration with director Josef von Sternberg. Set on the far side of the world but shot outside Los Angeles, Morocco navigates a labyrinth of melancholy and desire as the cabaret singer Amy Jolly (Dietrich), fleeing her former life, takes her act to the shores of North Africa, where she entertains the overtures of a wealthy man of the world while finding herself increasingly drawn to a strapping legionnaire with a shadowy past of his own (Gary Cooper). Fueled by the smoldering chemistry between its two stars, and shot in dazzling light and seductive shadow, the Oscar-nominated Morocco is a transfixing exploration of elemental passions.

Dishonored

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In Josef von Sternberg's atmospheric spin on the espionage thriller, Marlene Dietrich further develops her shrewd star persona in the role of a widow turned streetwalker who is recruited to spy for Austria during World War I. Adopting the codename X-27, Dietrich's wily heroine devotes her gifts for seduction and duplicity—as well as her musical talents—to the patriotic cause, until she finds a worthy adversary in a roguish Russian colonel (Victor McLaglen), who draws her into a fatal game of cat and mouse and tests the strength of her loyalties. Reimagining his native Vienna with customary extravagance, von Sternberg stages this story of spycraft as a captivating masquerade in which no one is who they seem and death is only a wrong note away.

Shanghai Express

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An intoxicating mix of adventure, romance, and pre-Code salaciousness, Shanghai Express marks the commercial peak of an iconic collaboration. Marlene Dietrich is at her wicked best as Shanghai Lily, a courtesan whose reputation brings a hint of scandal to a three-day train ride through war-torn China. On board, she is surrounded by a motley crew of foreigners and lowlifes, including a fellow fallen woman (Anna May Wong), an old flame (Clive Brook), and a rebel leader wanted by the authorities (Warner Oland). As tensions come to a boil, director Josef von Sternberg delivers one breathtaking image after another, enveloping his star in a decadent profusion of feathers, furs, and cigarette smoke. The result is a triumph of studio filmmaking and a testament to the mythic power of Hollywood glamour.

Blonde Venus

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Josef von Sternberg returned Marlene Dietrich to the stage in Blonde Venus, both a glittering spectacle and a sweeping melodrama about motherly devotion. Unfolding episodically, the film tells the story of Helen (Dietrich), once a German chanteuse, now an American housewife, who resurrects her stage career after her husband (Herbert Marshall) falls ill; she then becomes the mistress of a millionaire (Cary Grant), in a slide from loving martyr to dishonored woman. Despite production difficulties courtesy of the Hays Office, the director's baroque visual style shines, as do one of the most memorable musical numbers in all of cinema and a parade of visionary costumes by von Sternberg and Dietrich's longtime collaborator Travis Banton.

The Scarlet Empress

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Marlene Dietrich stars in Josef von Sternberg's feverishly debauched biopic as the spoiled princess Sophia Frederica, who grows up being groomed for greatness and yearning for a handsome husband. Sent to Russia to marry the Grand Duke Peter, she is horrified to discover that her betrothed is a half-wit and her new home a macabre palace where depravity rules. Before long, however, she is initiated into the sadistic power politics that govern the court, paving the way for her transformation into the imperious libertine Catherine the Great. A lavish spectacle in which von Sternberg's domineering visual genius reaches new heights of florid extravagance, The Scarlet Empress is a perversely erotic portrait of a woman—and a movie star—capable of bringing legions to heel.

The Devil Is a Woman

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Josef von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich went out with a bang in their final film together, The Devil Is a Woman, a surreal tale of erotic passion and danger set amid the tumult of carnival in turn-of-the-twentieth-century Spain. Through a series of flashbacks, Captain Costelar (Lionel Atwill) recounts to the young Antonio Galvan (Cesar Romero) the story of his harrowing affair with the notorious seductress Concha Perez (Dietrich), warning his listener to gird himself against her charms. Despite his counsel, Galvan falls under Concha's spell, leading to a violent denouement. Ever the ornate visual stylist, von Sternberg evokes Spanish culture with a touch of the luridly fantastic, further elevated by Travis Banton's opulent costume design and award-winning cinematography by von Sternberg himself.

SPECIAL FEATURES

• New 2K or 4K digital restorations of all six films, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-rays
• New interviews with film scholars Janet Bergstrom and Homay King; director Josef von Sternberg's son, Nicholas; Deutsche Kinemathek curator Silke Ronneburg; and costume designer and historian Deborah Nadoolman Landis
• New documentary about actor Marlene Dietrich's German origins, featuring film scholars Gerd Gemünden and Noah Isenberg
• New documentary on Dietrich's status as a feminist icon, featuring film scholars Mary Desjardins, Amy Lawrence, and Patricia White
The Legionnaire and the Lady, a 1936 Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of Morocco, featuring Dietrich and actor Clark Gable
• New video essay by critics Adrian Martin and Cristina Álvarez López
The Fashion Side of Hollywood, a 1935 publicity short featuring Dietrich and costume designer Travis Banton
• Television interview with Dietrich from 1971
• PLUS: A book featuring essays by critics Imogen Sara Smith, Gary Giddins, and Farran Smith Nehme
Last edited by Matt on Fri Feb 11, 2005 2:01 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: 109 The Scarlet Empress

#2 Post by zedz » Sun Jan 16, 2005 9:20 pm

Matt wrote:
Roger Ebert wrote:The Scarlet Empress

The height of visual extravagance

"It is a relentless excursion into style," Josef von Sternberg said of his "The Scarlet Empress" (1934). That's putting it mildly. Here is a film so crammed with style, so surrounded by it and weighted down with it, that the actors peer out from the display like children in a toy store. The film tells the story of Catherine the Great as a bizarre visual extravaganza, combining twisted sexuality and bold bawdy humor as if Mel Brooks had collaborated with the Marquis de Sade.

The film is the sixth of seven collaborations between von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich, and the strangest. It juxtaposes a Russia of gigantic grotesque gargoyles and overdressed towering Hussars with the giggling imbecility of the Grand Duke Peter and lingering fetishistic closeups of Dietrich's cold, erotic face. It provides Peter's domineering mother, the Empress Elizabeth, with the manners of a fishwife, and paints Catherine as a sexual adventuress who is assigned to provide Peter with a male heir and produces a child who is a male heir, right enough, but not Peter's.

The movie was released in 1934, just as the Hays Office began to police Hollywood films for morals violations. Von Sternberg must have had a friend on the force; he gets away with murder. Although the movie wisely sidesteps the famous legend of the empress' sub-equestrian death, a title does inform us, in sublime understatement, "Catherine coolly added the army to her list of conquests."

We see her inspecting the troops with particular attention to their nether regions, and when she meets the handsome Captain Orloff she says she's "heard" of him and asks what his job is. "I'm in charge of the night watch, your majesty." Dietrich's reply is a sensuous purr: "It must be ... cold ... at night ..." To be sure we get the point, we see Peter playing with toy soldiers, and then it's observed of Catherine, "she's always picking up the archduke's soldiers."

Von Sternberg (1894-1969) was one of the true Hollywood characters, sometimes a great director, always a great show. He dressed in costumes appropriate to the films he was directing, made his assistants remove their wristwatches because he could hear the ticking, and calmly claimed he did it all himself: direction, photography, lighting, sets, costumes, props, the works. "It takes me a lot of time," he sighed. Of course he had the usual craft professionals assigned to all of those jobs, but he certainly controlled the look of his films, and in "The Scarlet Empress" he compensates for the lack of a vast canvas by filling a small one to bursting.

His interiors suggest the Russian imperial household without showing us much more than a throne, some corridors, a dining room, a grand staircase and some bedrooms. We're reminded of how Orson Welles created Kane's Xanadu out of shadows, props, tricks and mirrors. The fixtures in Sternberg's rooms are boldly overscale; rough stone sculptures of monstrous gargoyles tower over the characters, surround them, leer at them. The doors are so heavy it takes two men or six women to swing them open. And the fur costumes of the wicked Count Alexei (John Lodge) look so heavy, it's a good thing he's over 6 feet tall and strong enough to wear them.

Alexei is the one who journeys to the hinterlands to fetch the beautiful "young princess," then called Sofia Frederica, who has been commanded to become Peter's bride. Sofia has already had quite a childhood; her doctor was also the hangman, and her bedtime stories involved tortures of the rack and the stake. In a montage imagining these grisly agonies, a prisoner is hung upside down and used as the clapper for a bell, and that image dissolves into Sofia swinging back and forth at play. No sooner do Alexei and Sofia meet than she looks at him with long fascination, in a closeup where she takes forever to close a door. The next day, Alexei boldly kisses her. "Why did you do that?" she asks. "Because I've fallen in love with you, and now you must punish me," he says, promptly handing her a whip as if the kiss was the price he had to pay for his reward. Later, on their long journey to the palace, her mother sees them together at a roadside inn, Sofia again holding his whip. "What are you two doing down there?" she asks. "Never mind; I don't want to know."

Arriving at the court, Sofia and her mother are greeted by Empress Elizabeth (Louise Dressler, with a no-nonsense Midwestern American accent). A court doctor immediately plunges under her hoop skirt to make sure all is in order for a royal pregnancy. Elizabeth renames her Catherine, "a good Russian name," and awards her the Order of St. Catherine: "May you wear it in good health. And be careful it doesn't scratch you."

Soon her betrothed Peter the Great (Sam Jaffe) enters, a grinning, simpering simpleton dismissed by his mother as a "half-wit." His principal royal duty is to produce an heir, something he is apparently unequipped to do, as von Sternberg hints in a scene where Peter is so desperate for a glimpse of his wife that he drills a spy hole through the eye of a mosaic in his mother's bedroom, which I think is a Freudian trifecta.

Dietrich exists surrounded but untouched by this madness, as a locus of carnal insinuations. She rarely engages the other actors physically; von Sternberg likes to isolate her in fetishistic compositions of lace, feathers, fur and fire (notice the shot in which she gazes steadily at Alexei from behind her veil; the candle flame a few inches from her mouth trembles as she begins to breathe more heavily). One dress seems made of black-tipped white fur spikes, which undulate when she moves, like a dreamy underwater porcupine. There is something both contented and demented in her narcissism; perfectly made up and exquisitely lighted, she poses for us in von Sternberg's closeups, regarding us with contemptuous passivity while we commit sins of thought by contemplating sins of deed.

Some of her erotic moments are more than passing strange. She and Alexei find themselves in a stable, where she plunges into the hay, then rights herself and puts a straw in her mouth sideways. He takes it away. She puts another straw in her mouth sideways. He also takes that away. She goes through five sideways straws and five Alexei removals. I have no idea what obscure communication is taking place here, but there's a payoff later in the film when, to taunt him, she boldly inserts a straw in her mouth not sideways but stem first, and twirls it with her tongue. Yowza!

As drama, "The Scarlet Empress" makes no sense, nor does it attempt to. This is not a resource for history class. Its primary subject is von Sternberg's erotic obsession with Dietrich, whom he objectified in a series of movies ("The Blue Angel," "Morocco," "Dishonored," "Shanghai Express," "Blonde Venus," "The Scarlet Empress" and "The Devil is a Woman") that made her face one of the immortal icons of the cinema. Whether she could act was beside the point for him; it would have been a distraction.

Von Sternberg has a slapdash way with some scenes, as if impatient when his attention is called away from Dietrich. Notice his several crowd scenes, in which peasants materialize on demand, mill about in frenzied turmoil, and are then forgotten. There is almost no sense of a real society outside the palace walls, and little enough within, where some of the arrangements would be at home in a Marx Brothers movie. For the long winter journey to the palace, for example, Count Alexei supplies piles of furs for Catherine, and then dismisses her mother with a hot water bottle.

When Dietrich is onscreen, however, nothing is too good for her; not only do von Sternberg's lighting and cinematography make her the center and subject of every scene, but he devises extraordinary moments for as, as when, clad in a fur uniform and cape, with an improbable sable military hat, she mounts a horse and leads a cavalry charge up the grand staircase. "It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily," she says in "Shanghai Express," but it only took von Sternberg to make her Marlene Dietrich.
The quality of this disc is notoriously bad, but I'd love to see the film. Can anybody advise on just how poor it is? Does the quality get in the way of appreciating the film?

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Re: 109 The Scarlet Empress

#3 Post by david hare » Sun Jan 16, 2005 10:02 pm

Unless you are lucky enough to see it in MOMA's glistening nitrate print you won't quite get the full experience (it is literally ravishing to the eyes.)
Unfortunately the master provided by Universal is dupey, overly grainy and even "pops" on dissolves/opticals, of which there are many. However Criterion tried their best with this and have restored a lot of the contrast (see the extraordinary wedding scene which is lit by thousands of candles.) Simply, there is no option to the Criterion at this time - I would love to think someone in Europe came up with a better print (there are fine 35mm prints of the Dietrich cycle often screening in Paris for instance) but the rights remain the problem. I should add the Archive prints held in the UK and Australia as well as TV prints in these countries are equally so-so.

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Re: 109 The Scarlet Empress

#4 Post by javelin » Mon Jan 17, 2005 4:30 pm

Sadly, this is one of the in-print Criterion discs that Netflix does not carry. Grr.

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Re: 109 The Scarlet Empress

#5 Post by ben d banana » Tue Jan 18, 2005 12:05 am

yes, it's an utterly terrific film, and in a world w/ two choices (not seeing it or a somewhat underwhelming criterion release) you must see it.

excellent news on the new prints, perhaps everything we've been missing on dvd will make early appearances in the hd-dvd/blu-ray world.

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Re: 109 The Scarlet Empress

#6 Post by Gregory » Tue Jan 18, 2005 5:08 am

excellent news on the new prints, perhaps everything we've been missing on dvd will make early appearances in the hd-dvd/blu-ray world.
I'd say Criterion is our only chance for that to happen. To my knowledge, as long as they've had the rights, Universal has never shown these films the respect they not only deserve but command. The fact that the major studios are changing to a new technology makes me less rather than more hopeful that anything will change. The main reason I don't see the change as a good thing, really, is that there are so many great films these studios have never bothered to release on DVD (or on home video at all, in some cases) and now they're primed to release all the same films all over again while most of the underappreciated films go right to the end of the line again.

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Re: 109 The Scarlet Empress

#7 Post by ben d banana » Tue Jan 18, 2005 4:02 pm

well, people say i'm a pessimist...

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Re: 109 The Scarlet Empress

#8 Post by david hare » Tue Jan 18, 2005 4:28 pm

Matt Said:

Universal recently made new prints of the entire Dietrich/von Sternberg cycle, which has led me to hope against hope that either they or Criterion (fat chance, probably) will release them all on DVD soon.

Matt do you know if Universal's new print of Shangnhai Express restores the large slab of dialogue cut from the scene with Marlene, Oland and EMile Chautard? (as happens in the LD print of 1995.)

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Re: 109 The Scarlet Empress

#9 Post by BWilson » Tue Jan 18, 2005 4:53 pm


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Re: 109 The Scarlet Empress

#10 Post by Eclisse » Tue Mar 15, 2005 4:01 pm

On amazon.com Bob Pope wrote
Is it or isn't it?, February 28, 2002

In a previous review I remarked on what a terrible print of the film was used for this DVD - GREAT FILM, terrible print.

Anyone who disagrees, or feels this may now be the best quality print on offer should take a look at the Martin Scorsese/BFI series "A Personal Journey Through American Movies". There you'll find a some gorgeous clips of the Scarlet Empress with sharp audio and virtually perfect picture (no horrible "dupe print" grain or frame damage like this DVD). The film simply shimers. Presumably this was a BFI print, but it may have been from Paramount - either way, a far better print exists and therefore I'm sad to say that this is proof that Criterion have rather short-changed the buying public this time around. Still, it's better than not having it on DVD at all, isn't it?
I saw "A Personal Journey Through American Movies" just the other day.And IF the imagine on the Criterion disc is even worst than the clips Scorsese was showing on his film,this transer isn't "bad", its awful.But I like this movie a lot...So I'll give it a shot.

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Re: 109 The Scarlet Empress

#11 Post by leo goldsmith » Tue Mar 15, 2005 4:12 pm

I thought I'd already put my two cents in, but I don't see them here.

Anyway, I've watched this dvd a couple of times and even seen it projected and could see nothing that I would describe as "terrible". God willing, there'll be a flawless transfer one of these days, but I see no reason to delay watching this astonishing and brilliant film until that time.

... and if you find it unwatchable, I'll buy it off you.

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Re: 109 The Scarlet Empress

#12 Post by Napier » Tue Mar 15, 2005 4:27 pm

I agree leo, I actually just watched this again last night!And it is not that bad.It is an absolutely terrific film in a campy sort of way.It is definitely a visual feast!I'm satisfied!!
Last edited by Napier on Wed Mar 16, 2005 9:15 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 109 The Scarlet Empress

#13 Post by david hare » Tue Mar 15, 2005 8:59 pm

Wait until you see a future (possible) Universal DVD of Blonde Venus and you'll finally see what you're missing!

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Re: 109 The Scarlet Empress

#14 Post by Gregory » Tue Mar 15, 2005 10:36 pm

Napier wrote:It is an absolutely terrific film in a campy sort of way.It is definitely a visual feast!
"Campy"?! Explain yourself! (And use the spell check.) :)

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Re: 109 The Scarlet Empress

#15 Post by david hare » Tue Mar 15, 2005 11:09 pm

Don't be too hard on Napier - even Susan Sontag made this critical mistake back in the sixties, describing the Sternberg Dietrich cycle as camp (to support her definition which it clearly does NOT fit) in her essay "On camp".
She later recanted of course, after both obviously seeing the movies more often, and coming to apprehend their profoundly poetic and personal qualities. In addition there was a fair bit of scholarship on Sternberg at that time, aided significantly by Sternberg himself, who did numerous tours around the joint. One memory I will never forget is Sternberg in person in Sydney 1968 at the FF that year to introduce an (excellent) 35mm print of ANATAHAN. The theatre was one of those old fleapits which was destined to become a porn house in later years (and sometimes visited by me) but Sternberg, unabashed by a rather breathless introduction from an overcoiffed young man very graciously and modestly thanked the miniscule audience for taking the trouble to watch this most extremely "artifical" and beautiful of his works in the moth-eaten surrounds of that old theatre. I will never forget this. And I can assure you his own introductions to his work were elegant and witty, full of taste and conviction. Indeed he was like a "natural" before an audience, quite unlike his somewhat nervous and abrupt appearance in the BBC short on EMPRESS disc with the insufferable interviewer.

Anyway - essential reading for anyone interested is his Autobiography "Fun in a Chinese Laundry".

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Re: 109 The Scarlet Empress

#16 Post by Gregory » Wed Mar 16, 2005 12:42 am

Yeah, I never liked that Sontag essay much. I think I understand her reasons for the "notes" format, but it just encouraged her to be even more pithy than usual. She set up quite a few distinctions in a questionable manner and then just ran rampant with them. I followed some of them well but was dumbstruck by others (Henry James' writing is largely non-serious and is absolutely devoid of tragedy?!).

I also notice the effects of remarking on the supposed "extravagance" or "excess" of a particular work of art. Sontag does not, but many people will use that as the sole basis for writing it off (Heaven's Gate comes to mind).

Anyway, where did Sontag recant about Sternberg? I'd be interested to read what she wrote.

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Re: 109 The Scarlet Empress

#17 Post by leo goldsmith » Wed Mar 16, 2005 1:09 am

flixyflox wrote:One memory I will never forget is Sternberg in person in Sydney 1968 at the FF that year to introduce an (excellent) 35mm print of ANATAHAN.
Anatahan is a film that needs to be seen by everyone everywhere.

P.S. I was going to call him on the "camp" comment, but didn't think anyone would care. Glad to see I was wrong.

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Re: 109 The Scarlet Empress

#18 Post by david hare » Wed Mar 16, 2005 1:11 am

I can't put my finger on it but Sarris' offended reactions to the "Camp" essay and possibly her later essays published after "Against Interpretation" I'm sure contain some sort of more reasoned appreciation. (My age gives me away - I am now getting too feeble to recall things from the early 70s!) Anyhow I'll check the library (If I can remember where it is!)

I think she had a general re-ervaluation of the whole "Camp" phenomenon, having kick-started the debate in the mid sixties, and was later to re-address her inclusion of "pop" artists and such as well as Sternberg's films.

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Re: 109 The Scarlet Empress

#19 Post by Napier » Wed Mar 16, 2005 9:47 am

Sorry, I didn't mean to piss any of the hardcore von Sternberg fans off!Let me first start by saying that I actually LOVE this film!Here we go,I just think that viewing these films i.e. The Scarlet Empress,Blue Angel etc. with todays eyes,take themselves way to seriously.That's what I meant by campy sort of way!Sure the visuals are knockout, the lighting is fabulous black and white,but some of the acting is just bad!Take the Grand Dukes mother for instance(Louise Dresser)the delivery of her lines are par at best!Note the scene when Alexi passes Sophia a note that she interceps!I understand that this is Joseph von Sternberg in Hollywood,not Eisenstein in Russia!But is this supposed to be a realistic portrayal of 18th Century Russia?I DON'T THINK SO! I take this film for what it is!Great fun and a bonafide Classic!

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Re: 109 The Scarlet Empress

#20 Post by cdnchris » Wed Mar 16, 2005 10:10 am

I have to agree with Napier on everything he just said. The film (by today's standards) does come off campy. The look and lighting is fantastic, but everything feels so over-the-top and extreme I couldn't take it seriously for one minute. Had a ball, though, and it's one of my favourites in the collection, but I have to admit that while watching I got the same feeling I did from watching (and I know this will piss off people) De Palma's Scarface: It's just way too over-the-top (and that's no knock against it.) But I think it's more fun because of that. Movies about excess and power seem to work better when they're excessive themselves. For me anyways.

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Re: 109 The Scarlet Empress

#21 Post by leo goldsmith » Wed Mar 16, 2005 12:34 pm

Napier wrote:But is this supposed to be a realistic portrayal of 18th Century Russia?I DON'T THINK SO!
I don't think so either. I don't think anyone could mistake it for a realistic portrayal of Russian history -- least of all Sternberg himself, who was devoutly, vocally, even perversely anti-realist. Hence the very stiff acting, which is characteristic of most of his films. For Shanghai Express, a film about a train, Sternberg famously insisted that his characters should themselves talk like trains. The result is quite weird, sure, but I'm not sure one would call it campy any more than one could call, say, Kubrick's films campy.

That said, reading Sternberg's films as camp is very common (see Jack Smith), so I'm not pissed off, merely curious what you mean exactly.

Also, I'd be very interested to read an argument for Kubrick as camp, but that's a subject for a different thread ...

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Re: 109 The Scarlet Empress

#22 Post by oldsheperd » Wed Mar 16, 2005 12:51 pm

I would prefer to use the term "tongue in cheek" rather that camp. There is a definite wink-wink to the audeince from both Von Sternberg and Dietrich.

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Re: 109 The Scarlet Empress

#23 Post by Napier » Wed Mar 16, 2005 1:08 pm

True, "tongue in cheek" is probably better than saying camp.Camp maybe more in the realm of say, The Blob!

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Re: 109 The Scarlet Empress

#24 Post by Gregory » Wed Mar 16, 2005 3:53 pm

I believe that Dietrich's performaces had a great deal of irony and one could certainly say they were tongue-in-cheek. But I don't think that accurately sums up Sternberg's approach. The "excess" that can be observed in Scarlet Empress was simply part of his mise-en-scene; it was not an affectation. It's especially suitable for this film because it underscores the decadence of the characters.

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Re: 109 The Scarlet Empress

#25 Post by oldsheperd » Wed Mar 16, 2005 4:40 pm

The mise-en-scene Sternberg used isn't tongue in cheek. I think the tone and definitely the acting was though.

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