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Critics reviews
The Blue Angel
Josef von Sternberg Germany, 1930
Our audiovisual essay, The World and Its Image, takes a different angle on Sternberg’s immense cinematic achievement. Getting away from the humanist, psychological bias of much film criticism, it investigates patterns and resonances relating to what is precisely non-human, and phantasmic, in The Blue Angel. Sternberg said it himself: the cinema is a "theater of shadows.
February 14, 2017
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In this postwar, expressionistic look at German vaudeville, Jannings and Dietrich are a picture-perfect comedy team.
March 09, 2016
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The walrus and the mink, a Germanic love story. (“Das ewig Weibliche zieht uns hinan,” as the old joke goes.) Josef von Sternberg at UFA is a wry ringmaster working an arena of knowingly heavy symbolism, like the maid who sees the dead parakeet in its cage and throws it away with a shrug.
August 31, 2015
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The film might be little more than a curio today if it weren’t, ironically, for Jannings, the actor who appears to be least in on the joke, and who brings to the project a pathos that’s possibly born of unintended autobiography. The film is a hall of mirrors refracting a great variety of rise-and-fall stories, and of ambitions misplaced, choked, and barely realized, but Jannings continues to haunt as its most prominent lost soul
December 16, 2013
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It’s to both Von Sternberg and Dietrich’s mutual credit that the hoary thesis of The Blue Angel’s storyline—all women are sirens, singing a unified chorus of “Falling In Love Again” to an army of men who are, it turns out, the ones who truly can’t help it—registers largely as a regrettable product of its time, just as some of the more awkward stretches of dead-zone pacing, especially early on during the classroom sequences, can easily be excused as a byproduct of early talkies.
December 04, 2012
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Sternberg and Dietrich were of course only getting started, and their later collaborations would cement their partnership as one of the most lavish and fascinating in all cinema. THE BLUE ANGEL may lack the opulence of these later films, and it’s similarly devoid of the scope of Sternberg’s silent classics, but arriving as it did at the dawn of the sound era, and chronicling a world-class director’s first outing with his muse, it is very much a film at the crossroads.
May 04, 2012
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Although the story essentially revolves around Jannings’ character, von Sternberg seizes on Dietrich’s gifts as often as he can… Save for the exceptional songs, The Blue Angel might have been more transfixing as a silent movie, which would have elided Jannings’ excesses and the frequent drop-offs in sound. But as Dietrich’s breakthrough and a key transition into the next phase of von Sternberg’s career, it’s essential.
April 19, 2002
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It was filmed during the Weimar Republic when the German government, caught in a stranglehold over war reparations, was on the verge of collapse. The film echoes the cynicism and hopelessness of the times. As a result, the story is extremely caustic and unforgiving: the desperate voice of a country in turmoil.
January 01, 1998
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In many ways the film is about the constancy of emotion as well as the destructive tricks it plays. Jannings’s repressed little prig, whose first sexual encounter results in his total destruction, is redeemed from contempt by Sternberg’s respect for his masochistic passion.
January 01, 1975
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