Saturday, July 10, 2010

100 years, 100 films 19: Pandora's Box (1928)

Ah, my last silent film. There were times (watching the by turns interminable and unbearably racist Birth of a Nation, or Queen Elizabeth) when I just wanted to give up. But no. I stuck it through to the end, managing to avoid watching any other films along the way. And so here I arrive, at G. W. Pabst's Pandora's Box. Battered and bruised, yes, but unmistably and gloriously alive. And, I think, a little bit wiser.

But to the film. I've only seen one other Pabst movie, 1931's The Threepenny Opera, and I have to say I didn't much care for it. I found the characters bland and uninteresting, and the whole thing just way overlong. There were a few moments of goodness, but a whole lot of nothing much.

And so it was with some trepidation that I started up Pandora's Box. Yes, I know Pabst is supposed to be a master, and Pandora's Box a masterpiece. But that didn't stop me from thinking to myself, "what if it's just another tedious bore-fest, like Threepenny Opera?" Well, fortunately, the film wasn't a tedious bore-fest, although it was hardly the masterpiece some claim it to be. Louise Brooks was really good as the prostitute-turned-singer-turned-disgruntled-housewife-turned-murder-suspect-turned-runaway-turned-gambler-turned-murder-victim. Her lust for life was all encompasing, and devoured everything in her path.

But apart from Louise Brooks, I really don't see anything special about this film at all. I mean, there are a few well directed scenes here and there (the masterfully controlled chaos of the backstage area at the theatre was very well done), but these well directed scenes are matched in about equal number with scenes of just bizarre pointlessness. There was a ten minute sequence on a train. I'm sure something must have been going on, but I couldn't for the life of me work out what.

Also, why is every single male here disgusting looking? Wouldn't someone as vivacious and fun and insatiable as Louise Brooks hang out with the attractive people? I'm not saying that every single guy should be George Clooney, but why do they all have to be Randy Quaid?

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