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714 Ratings

The Scarlet Empress

Directed by Josef von Sternberg
United States, 1934
Drama, Romance, History


Filmmaker-svengali Josef von Sternberg escalates his obsession with screen legend Marlene Dietrich in this lavish depiction of sex and deceit in the 18th-century Russian court, a self-proclaimed “relentless excursion into style.”

The Scarlet Empress Directed by Josef von Sternberg
Sternberg offers more than a hint of onanistic delight in detailing Catherine’s gradual perversion from doe-eyed girl to hood-eyed seductress, but mixes it with a powerful strand of feminist-minded melodrama, a form popular in the pre-Code era that was just moving out of favour. Yet Sternberg laid a template for whole zones of modern popular culture yet to be invented.
March 04, 2014
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As we try to properly absorb any number of disturbing psychological and thematic associations, one thing is certain: we’re out of the usual comfort zone established by most big-budget “golden-era” Hollywood studio filmmaking.
March 18, 2012
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The decor and costumes, and the mise-en-scéne that deploys them, have never been equaled for expressionist intensity.
February 09, 2006

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