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.
This is among the better silent films I have seen, only The Wind beats it perhaps (I must watch more silent films as they teach you that film is mostly a visual medium, something modern filmmakers tend to forget). Favourite scene: The salvation army marching through foggy London at Christmas.
Classical film which was overlooked by contemporaries. A powerful comment on the nature of sexuality and its impact on modern society. Expressive cinematography at its peak, especially close-ups and interior shots, which are beyond anything. And Lulu became a major influence on the feminist imagery.
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.
Acts 2 & 3 are a trial, but after that it has something of the wrenching yet vaguely farcical feel of 'Requiem For a Dream' in that it becomes a melodramatic descent into death and despair... but then the tawdriness of it all is elevated by a suddenly beautiful last 10 minutes that is moving in unexpected, confusing ways. I think one's enjoyment of the film is pretty contingent upon how much one <3 Louise Brooks.
COUNTESS GESCHWITZ. Let me mention her first, because not many do, though her character is frankly way more interesting than that of Lulu. Of course this is a great, well-made film, and story complaints belong mostly with Wedekind, but still, it ranks as one of the most regressive silents I've seen in a long time. Funnily, Jessner's more symbolic and minimal approach to the same story made Erdgeist easier to stomach.