Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mata Hari

Mata Hari; Drama, USA, 1931; D: George Fitzmaurice, S: Greta Garbo, Ramon Novarro, Lionel Barrymore, Lewis Stone, C. Henry Gordon

Paris, World War I. Mata Hari is a beautiful dancer who is actually a secret German spy using her beauty to manipulate men. Currently she is flirting with Russian General Serge Shubin in order to spy on him. Hari's friend Carlotta falls in love with her victim and is thus executed. But Hari also falls in love with the young Russian Officer Alexei, from whom she steals valuable papers. Yet he his plane crashes and he remains blind, while Hari gets arrested and sentenced to death.

The most famous movie adaptation of the legendary exotic dancer accused of espionage and the most commercially successful movie of actress Greta Garbo, "Mata Hari" is a competent and solid achievement that didn't put too much effort in crafting something special. Alas, the result is predictably a fine, but standard and too conventional story that becomes ostensibly melodramatic towards the end, whereas it's theme of manipulation of people is still timely, especially in the scene where the sly heroine pushes the envelope by making the young Officer Alexei tell her that he "places her before God, Honor and Homeland" and even persuading him to extinguish a sacred lamp of Virgin Mary. Neither the screenplay nor the direction were executed in some dazzling way, which is why the viewers start to lose a part of their concentration after a while, yet it's a perfect vehicle for the brilliant Garbo, who is definitely the highlight here and shows why her charisma, talent and sly charm still have sparks in our time.


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