Brigitte Helm in Abwege (GW Pabst)

Giornate journal 2020: Pordenone post No 5

Did you spend your Thursday evening straying with Brigitte Helm? I hope so …

Day Six

GW Pabst’s Abwege (1928) is, as Jay mentioned in his intro, a certain thread of what we think of when we imagine Weimar cinema. Not the exoticism of Expressionism of high-concept fiction, nor the relentless realism of Street Films, but a sampler of the era’s endless fetisished culture. This is a tale of infidelity, intrigue, independence and the famous temptations of the Berlin nightlife in the 1920s.

All this, plus Brigitte Helm in the lead role, a louchely mobile camera and some of the best nightclub sequences ever captured on film. And on Thursday night in the Virtual Verdi, a stunning new restoration from Filmmuseum München and some nimble accompaniment from Maur Colombis.

I won’t say too much more about this show, that I didn’t write here, in my post on the film itself.

I think that rewatching the film makes me appreciate Gustav Diessl’s performance more and more, though. You have to have watched it several times to be able to take your eyes off Helm for a second, I reckon.

I did, however, value the post-film discussion with Jay, Stefan Drössler and Mauro Colombis very much. Not only for Jay’s fabulously starry backdrop, but especially for Drössler clearly laying out the historical context of the film, and the reasons why it has been a little overlooked. As he says, it is a ‘cold’ film and it was a lower-budget work than something such as The Love of Jeanne Ney. It has now been overshadowed by his Brooks films too, but now it is available in this gorgeous restoration it should be more widely seen and treasured.

• Intertitle of the day: As the post-film discussion detailed, there’s very little conversation in the titles, and there’s nothing Helm can’t say with her eyes. Still, this line is very evocative of the Weimar corruption depicted in the movie: “What are you, a virtuous government official, doing here in this den of vice?!”

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