An uptight professor (Emil Jannings), lonely and ridiculed by his unruly students, finds solace in a beautiful cabaret performer (Marlene Dietrich) when he visits her seedy nightclub in order to reprimand his students for attending. Entranced by her beauty, he soon loses himself in her world, throwing everything away for a life in the gutter. Powerful & wrenching, featuring a haunting performance by Jannings.
The first film in the partnership of von Sternberg and Dietrich is the best of the seven they made together. It shows off the acting talent of Jannings who is brilliant as the pathetic professor who's doomed from the moment he meets Dietrich's Lola Lola at The Blue Angel cabaret. Marlene is less glamorous in this film than she would become after her Hollywood makeover but her earthy sexuality is an asset to the film.
My partner Mike and I watched this film together on Mubi.com. I was charmed by Marlene Dietrich singing "Falling in Love Again" a song that I heard Billie Holiday sing in English on an old record I had years ago. Mike didn't like the grim ending, and the fact that the professor was humiliated on stage as a clown act. Dietrich was 28-29 when she made this and looked lovely and spirited. Classic performances!!
*The Blue Angel* rises above it's technical limitations into something so sublime. Sternberg's expressionistic direction is steeped in sleaze and atmosphere and Emil Jannings overshadows everyone. Even Marlene Dietrich. I can relate so well to the main character at times, I think we've all been where he is in this film even if not to such melodramatic extremes.
Josef von Sternberg's classic takes a while to really get into - it's hindered by the creaky pacing common to a lot of early sound films - but I was eventually one over by the depth of the characters, particularly Emil Jannings performance, and the rich, atmosphere and Expressionistic visuals. It's certainly dated, but still a classic.
Emil Janning's professor is masterfully written and portrayed. Coming from the silent era and the theatre, his style is beautifully carituresque, and yet subtle. An eternal film, one that lingers, and whose images will regularly appear in your visual memory. Sternberg was right, Dietrich had glorious legs.