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aka - Blaue Engel, Der
Germany 1930
Directed by
Josef Von Sternberg
98 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

The Blue Angel

This early German sound picture, an adaptation of Heinrich Mann's novel, "Professor Unrath", made an international star of 28-year-old Marlene Dietrich, who until this time had only had appeared in B-grades. Her performance as cabaret star, Lola-Lola, made her one of the iconic screen sex symbols and femme fatales, her world-weary version of "Falling In Love Again", in top hat, black stockings and bare thighs being regularly recycled in film documentaries dealing with such things.

With Dietrich spending a good deal of time with her skirt cut away to reveal her lacy knickers this was racy stuff in its day (and no doubt provided research material for Bob Fosse for Cabaret, 1972) but despite Dietrich's empathetic performance, the film tends to be didactic and hence feel somewhat laboured as it focuses stylistically, narratively and dramatically on the degradation and decline of the hapless Professor whilst Lola-Lola remains an entirely mythic character, a vamp without any tangible motivation at a real psychological level.

Von Sternberg, who had returned to Germany from Hollywood on the invitation of Germany's leading actor of the day, Emil Jannings who here plays Lola's infatuated "victim", went on to make another six films with Dietrich in Hollywood, all of which in one way or another play with the various dimensions of the feminine mystique (they also were in real life a couple).

FYI: Indicative of the importance of the German film industry at the time, which technically and qualitatively had certainly outstripped Hollywood during the silent era, the film was also made in an English language version for the pre-Hays Code American market.




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