Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pandora's Box (1929)

While I do not think silent films are for everyone, I always feel a little bad for those who do not like them, especially when I watch a "really good" one like Pandora's Box. In my view, they missed out. Suspenseful, stylish, sexy, and poignant, the film represents what that era of film history created that others could not.

Directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst, and starring Louise Brooks, Pandora's Box follows Lulu, a dancer and escort whose sexuality leads to her downfall. Yes, clear message here, but honestly, it's nothing new to see women onscreen punished for promiscuity or any sexual display. Yet, it remains fascinating to watch. Brooks portrays Lulu as so naive in the first half. She controls the other characters closely, and in a moment she loses it all, runs away, and arrives at another fate. Like I said, viewers expect the downfall, but that does not impact its effectiveness. Brooks' facial expressions and playfulness make her loveable, but at the same time I both disliked and pitied Lulu because she brought so much on herself.

Also, the film suggests, but does not show, many of her actions. Still, this conveys quite a difference between European (the film is German) and Hollywood films at the time, at least from what I have seen. It seems this trend would continue. I always feel Hollywood (even today) so fears offending audiences that it rarely produces "real" films. Instead, it provides "escapism." While I consider that part of the movies' appeal as well, (even Pandora's Box provides that fantasy "Jazz Age" vibe with the costumes, shows, and parties the characters indulged in) I also consider too much escapism just fluff. When I watch an American film, eight or nine times out of ten I know it is "just a movie," but I often feel differently with foreign films. Movies, like any artform, can create more than escapism, and that makes them powerful. And yes, they had better make me uncomfortable, if they show me a truth I rarely see. It is only my opinion, but this pattern frustrates me.

Anyway, I went off on a tangent here, but Pandora's Box (a scene, by the way, explicitly connects title and plot) makes me think about many things, and is worth viewing. It is sad it opened only a few years before the production codes censored everything even more.

I also found this Brooks tribute, with a random first photo of Clara Bow. I have no idea what that is about, but I like looking at her too.


Shybiker said...

Great review! I'll have to check it out. I like Louise Brooks.

I agree with you on the distinction between American and foreign films. In many of the latter, I lose myself in their reality whereas in domestic films I'm always conscious of its artifice due to slavish adherence to Hollywood conventions. That's why I prefer European and Asian films generally.

You do great film-commentary, buddy. :)

She is Sara said...

wow I really want to see this! I need to break down and get netflicks. You always have the best reviews and make me want to watch movies.