Sensationally modern, G. W. Pabst’s lurid, controversial melodrama follows the downward spiral of the fiery, brash, yet innocent showgirl Lulu (Louise Brooks), whose sexual vivacity has a devastating effect on everyone she comes in contact with.
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Louise Brooks is perfect as a slutty Jewish artiste with a pure heart. I love how Pabst establishes her Jewishness in the first scene, and then never makes an issue of it again in the film. One of the finest films by one of the greatest stars of the silent era.
Who'd have thought a silent film could beat opera at its own game? A series of tableaux descending into sexual hell, Pandora's Box remains immensely complex the closer you study the little gestures. Louise Brooks is vivacious, promiscuous, oblivious, and sometimes manipulative, and gathers a circle of admirers accordingly. But the spirit of her presence makes it impossible to see her as anything other than innocent.
She captivated a nation. They set her free from a wrongful conviction. A thoroughly modern Millie. But a woman cannot live by man's rules. She must have a downfall. Ms. Brooks was unconventional as well. Hollywood didn't like that, and so she got serious material overseas.
If pressed to pick a film which truly represents many of cinema's key strengths as a medium, this would be it. Brooks is remarkable, but Pabst's directing is the real star. The air, as if by magic, pushing up Lulu's veil, the way human bodies block the visibility of a gunshot, smoke rising before us like a warm spirit. Fragmented bodies, abstracted hands, Pabst predicting Bresson's maneuvers. The ending is perfect.
Louise Brooks embodies the "flapper" spirit of her Lost Generation in this sexually charged and erotic silent melodrama ahead of its time in its depiction of the divide between men and the feminine psyche. It tragically ends in the Depression setting winter slums of Soho during Christmas time.