Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Blue Angel

Der Blaue Engel; Drama, Germany, 1930; D: Josef von Sternberg, S: Emil Jannings, Marlene Dietrich, Kurt Gerron, Hans Alters

Professor Rath is an ugly, overweight man who is working in a high school in a very strict manner, thus making his pupils call him Un-Rat (anti-advice). One day he catches his pupil Angst and discovers pictures of a local club, a mix of a brothel and a circus, in which a lot of boys from the school tend to enter, so he decides to go there and catch them red handed. But once he enters the club he is instantly fascinated by the blond performer Lola. They meet, she implies that she finds him attractive and they spend the night together. When Rath marries her he gets fired for indecency and is forced to join Lola's club as a clown. 5 years later, during a performance in his native town, Rath goes crazy and leaves Lola. He goes to his old school and dies.

Impressive tragic drama "The Blue Angel" that analyzes the impact of prostitution, loneliness and dignity on society has quality since the controversial story from that era is rather true and bitter by today's standards, and the excellent Marlene Dietrich subsequently became a star, although her supporting role is rather sparse and underdeveloped. The first part of the film is the best since it explores the life of the ugly professor Rath who is projecting his loneliness and lack of love on being a strict teacher who oppresses his students, but later on finds his first love in the "Blue Angel", and the rhythm is good since his degradation as a clown and the sappy tragic ending are pretty weak and pathetic, thus reducing the quality of the story as a whole, falling into von Sternberg's typical melodrama. The details of contrast are quite clever, for instance in the scene in which loud music can be heard but when the door are closed it suddenly becomes totally silent or when Rath is repelling everyone away from Lola. Their romance is pleasant, portraying an unusual relationship between an ugly, prestigious and an attractive, but morally despised person, despite the fact that it's not clear why Lola finds him attractive, yet the sparse humor functions much better than the overemphasized emotions.


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