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Germany 1929
Directed by
G.W. Pabst
97 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Pandora's Box

Overall this silent film about an alluring good-time girl who, through a kind of happy-go-lucky immorality can't help but drive good men (and ultimately herself) to their undoing does not rank with the greats of the era such as Lang's Metropolis (1927) and Murnau's Nosferatu (1921) but it is nevertheless a classic because of its central theme of sexual destruction and, above all, the presence of Louise Brooks in the lead.

Whilst so many of the beauties of the silent era are limited by the fashions of the time, Brooks's beauty remains as palpable today as it was then, as does her charisma. For the story, Pabst condensed two popular plays by Frank Wedekind - 'Erdgeist', and 'Die Buchse der Pandora' (the film's German title) and was considering Marlene Dietrich for the role until he saw Brooks in Howard Hawks' A Girl in Every Port (1928) Until then a paradigmatic 20s flapper, The Kansas-born Brooks, a one-time Zeigfield chorus girl, became an international star as a result of the film although she never rose so high again (she made another film with Pabst, Diary of a Lost Girl, and a handful of minor pictures in the US before disappearing permanently from the silver screen.

FYI: The 1998 documentary Looking for Lulu, is an interesting account of Brooks's life and career, which if not as tragic as that of Frances Farmer, amply demonstrates the fate for an independent woman in the early days of Hollywood.

 

 

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