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When the dour, moralistic Professor Emmanuel Rath (Emil Jannings) discovers his pupils drooling over saucy photos of cabaret star Lola Lola (Marlene Dietrich), he is enraged by their depravity. Ready to denounce the lax morals of the nightclub and all who play in her, he makes a stern-faced visit, only to find himself also seduced by Lola's charms, and compromises his own stand.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The Blue Angel (in black and white) is Josef von Sternberg's tragic, moody character study and social essay of Germany at the end of the 1920s. It stars the very young but powerful Marlene Dietrich as Lola Lola, a cabaret singer at The Blue Angel cabaret, and double Oscar winning Emil Jannings as the repressed professor Rath, intent on moral rectitude, only to fall under the spell of the singer. As did many of his students, much to his outrage. At first.

This was Germany's first major talking picture. Made in both German and English - and both are included in this Directors Suite edition - the film is as interesting for the various questions it raises as for its cinematic triumph. Why did the sensual and sensational Lola marry this bearded and balding old duffer? Is it because he is one man she can control so absolutely? Is the moral decline of Rath symbolic of Germany at the time? Is Lola's liberating influence on Rath good or bad - looking at it from a humanistic point of view. And many more.

There's so much to note in this film, from the dance costumes to the use of the camera and von Sternberg's sense of humour.... and the rotund actor who plays the director at the Blue Angel, Kurt Gerron. When the Nazis came to power a few years after this film was made, this successful Jewish actor and director was rounded up with thousands of others and sent to Theresienstadt, a town near Prague that was turned into a concentration camp. His creative urge and the captive talent around him led him to produce shows - everything from children's opera to concerts, poetry and painting.

When the Nazis launched a propaganda campaign to counter rumours about conditions in these camps, they ordered Gerron to make a documentary of Theresienstadt, showing it as the model of artistic freedom, with the prisoners sitting in cafes to listen to music. Gerron had no choice but to make it, and his fellow Jews despised him for it. Tragic story. Prisoner of Paradise, a superb feature length documentary about him and that film, was released in Australia in 2003.

As for von Sternberg, one of Dietrich's lovers and one of the most acclaimed filmmakers of the 30s - then new to Hollywood - The Blue Angel is his first and most important milestone film.

October 25, 2007

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(Germany, 1930)

Der blaue engel

CAST: Marlene Dietrich, Emil Jannings, Kurt Gerron, Rosa Valetti, Hans Albers, Reinhold Bernt, Eduard V. Winterstein, Hans Roth, Rolf Muller, Roland Varno, Carl Bauhaus, Robert Klein-Lörk

PRODUCER: Erich Pommer

DIRECTOR: Josef von Sternberg

SCRIPT: Robert Liebman, Karl Volmoller, Carl Zuckmeyer (novel Professor Unrat by Heinrich Mann)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Gunther Rittau, Hans Schneeberger

EDITOR: Walter Klee, Sam Winston

MUSIC: Friedrich Hollander


RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes


SPECIAL FEATURES: Directors Cut Series. Restored master. Disc 1: (feature film in German with English subtitles) audio commentary by Adrian Martin (Snr Research Fellow, Film, Monash Uni); Marlene Dietrich screen test; restoration scene comparison; two German theatrical trailers. Disc 2: (feature film in English) Hollywood Remembers 25 minute profile of Dietrich; short interview with Dietrich; trailers


DVD RELEASE: August 16, 2007

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