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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Prix de beauté (Augusto Genina, 1930)

Prix de beauté (1930): Louise Brooks pays the price of beauty

This post is an extended version of the screening notes and on-screen introduction I contributed to the recent Hippodrome Silent Film Festival screening of Prix de beauté (Augusto Genina, 1930), with accompaniment by Stephen Horne. Every film fan knows the face of Louise Brooks. The jazz-age dancer from Kansas who shimmied her way from Broadway … Continue reading Prix de beauté (1930): Louise Brooks pays the price of beauty

“A friendly place to get some laughs and forget all the craziness”: A year of the Silent Comedy Watch Party

Time flies when you’re getting nothing done. So I will forgive you if you don’t believe me, but this weekend the Silent Comedy Watch Party will webcast its 50th edition, a year to the day since the first show, back at a time when we were just getting our heads around this new word “lockdown”. … Continue reading “A friendly place to get some laughs and forget all the craziness”: A year of the Silent Comedy Watch Party

Josephine Baker

Siren of the Tropics (1927): Josephine Baker is reborn on screen

The best thing I’ve seen so far at this year’s online Slapstick Festival is the French film Siren of the Tropics (Mario Nalpas & Henri Étiévant, 1927), starring one of the all-time greats of the dance world, Josephine Baker. With this movie, Baker became the first Black woman to star in a major studio picture. … Continue reading Siren of the Tropics (1927): Josephine Baker is reborn on screen

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