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"Pandora's Box" - Midnight - Nov. 4/2012


RMeingast
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Late night silent tonight is G.W. Pabst's 1929 flick "Pandora's Box" with Louise Brooks.

One of the two films made in Germany by Pabst that starred the American Brooks.

Despite only getting so-so reviews on its release, the film is now regarded as a classic of German cinema: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pandora%27s_Box_%281929_film%29

 

Seen the film many times, but I like Louise Brooks, so gonna try and stay up past my normal beddy-bye time to catch this movie...

 

This film has been referred to as one of the first German "film noirs" with Brooks creating the "archetypal noir temptress" in this movie (latter quotation from http://brightlightsfilm.com/54/noirgolden.php'>http://brightlightsfilm.com/54/noirgolden.php'>http://brightlightsfilm.com/54/noirgolden.php'>http://brightlightsfilm.com/54/noirgolden.php).

 

A couple of academic articles for ya'll to read about the movie (in full-text PDF) here:

 

 

Miller, Helen. "The Overcoming of Desire: Prostitution and the Contract in Pandora’s Box (1929).":

http://ww.transformationsjournal.org/conferences/2001/articles/helen_miller.pdf

 

 

Kutner, C. Jerry. "Beyond the Golden Age: Film Noir Since the'50s." 23-32.:

 

http://brightlightsfilm.com/54/noirgolden.php

 

The Kutner article above mentions "Pandora's Box" and its importance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Maybe at 16 years old it was just over my head, but I didn't like it.

 

And I saw this film in a theater as a 35mm projection...and the half who stayed until the end left exhausted and bleary eyed. (and I think Ms Brooks was in attendance too) It seemed very long, slow and pointless.

 

Should I give it another try?

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I've seen *Pandora's Box* twice, once many years ago in a film class, and once, just a year or two ago, when TCM aired it.

A few thoughts: Louise Brooks has an incredible freshness, for lack of a better word, to her beauty. No matter how many sexual exploits she's indulged in ( or not, it's not 100% clear), there's an innocence about her face and her demeaneur. Especially when she smiles.

 

Many have commented on the Lulu character being an early "femme fatale", luring men to their doom. But if you pay attention to her actions, she's not really desirous of their doom, she doesn't even particularly want to have control over them. She seems as much as anything to simply want them to like her, as a companion. (not just in an erotic way, that's a given.) Yes, she does seduce that rich man at the film's onset, thereby terminating his engagement to a more suitable life mate. And -spoiler ! - she does cause his death, although both times I've seen this segment, it's never been completely clear to me what exactly happens and why. Something to do with the man's son being Lulu's lover as well, or wanting to be, jealousy, a gun going off, panic on the part of Lulu...

 

The above scene I just described is somewhat emblematic of the entire film, in that throughout a lot of it, I know something is going on, I'm just not entirely sure what.Like when Lulu's price (as a sexual plaything) is being negotiated in that shipboard scene.

 

 

I think maybe this is part of the problem many have with *Lulu* - it sort of goes on and on, and it's often hard to figure out to what purpose. And why the horrible ending? Which is rendered even more horrible by the way Pabst somehow garners sympathy for Lulu's future killer.

 

 

Altogether, it's a problematic film. But there's no denying Louise Brooks' appeal, and the cinematic beauty and mystery of all those Expressionist shadows. Worth watching if only for those two assets ( hey, no pun intended.)

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Saw it once a LONG time ago and immediately fell in love with Louise!!! :x Oh yeah! I watched a portion of it last night and will check out the remainder tonight or this week! It's a hotcha flick, and worth seeing to see what all the fuss was about with Louise Brooks (and it was well-deserved fuss let me tell ya!!) as well as some coolio Expressionistic touches, but not as thick with that as some others from the German cinema of the era. Very, very groovy flick!!!

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> {quote:title=willbefree25 wrote:}{quote}Which you can see, right now, on YouTube, and not wait for TCM.

I cannot speak for mark, but, as I've said recently elsewhere on these boards, that while I appreciate the helpful intention behind people's suggestions to watch a film on Youtube, I do not like watching movies that way, and prefer to wait and watch what I've recorded, or order the film, or just wait til it's on again. Many many people here watch movies off Youtube, and that' s fine, it's certainly one way to access sometimes otherwise rare films.

But speaking for myself only, watching a film from Youtube - not going to happen, baby.

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Sorry, I'm not a big fan of PANDORA'S BOX. To me it is a complete dud. No real story line, reprehensible characters that you just don't care what happens to any of them, including Lulu. This is definitely not a good introduction to Silent drama in my opinion.

 

Louise Brooks doesn't cut it for me. The only film she turned my head in was a W. C. Fields movie from 1926 called "IT'S THE OLD ARMY GAME" She is gorgeous in that movie. Haven't seen a good print of BEGGARS OF LIFE to judge her effect in that picture.

 

I loathed PANDORA'S BOX so much, I have never watched DIARY OF A LOST GIRL, even though I have had the DVD for years.

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> {quote:title=Hibi wrote:}{quote}I had similar problems with the film. I liked Louise Brooks, but it was hard to understand what was going on a lot of the time. Was it supposed to be so obscure? The title cards didnt help too much.......

Well, I don't know what to say to you and Miss W.

Everybody is different, I guess.

I was able to stay up and did watch the film and thought it was great.

Not just Louise Brooks but the other actors as well...

 

Have no idea why Hibi and Miss W. didn't enjoy it more?

Not much point in stating how and why film scholars regard it as a classic as I'm sure it wouldn't matter to Hibi and Miss W., who are both independent thinkers and don't just like (or dislike) something because others do.

 

Being told why you should like a film doesn't work.

Like I said, everybody is different and has different likes and dislikes.

When the film first premiered in Germany, many didn't like it. Maybe for the same reasons you two, and others, stated? Me know not...

 

As for being one of the first film noirs and Brooks' character as being an archetype of the femme fatale, many film scholars have commented on this, I'm not just making it up.

I provided links below in another post to two articles that discuss the film.

You can find other articles on the film for yourself at Google Scholar, if you wish.

 

I guess you can read Roger Ebert's review of the film and why he likes it here:

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19980426/REVIEWS08/401010349/1023

 

Also an article from "The Criterion Collection" edition of the film:

http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/458-opening-pandora-s-box

 

Sorry you didn't like it Hibi, Miss W., and others, but that's the way she goes...

 

One thing that struck me was Fritz Kortner's resemblance to Laurence Olivier in "The Prince and the Showgirl." Just Olivier's face and the monocle and his stiff manner in that film remind me of Kortner in "Pandora's Box."

 

Of course, both films are different. "The Prince and the Showgirl" is a comedy, while "Pandora's Box" contains some comedy but is a tragedy...

 

Marilyn Monroe plays a showgirl who becomes mistress to Olivier's Prince, while Brooks plays a mistress (who's a showgirl during the film too) to Kortner's wealthy newspaper publisher. That's pretty much where the similarities end, I suppose, 'tho you can see how Brooks and Monroe play their parts as naive(?) and seemingly carefree people.

 

Anyway, this film and Brooks' character have much to do with the story of Pandora and Pandora's Box in Greek mythology as interpreted by Pabst.

At the time the film was made in Germany, it was a popular theme for stage plays, etc., and there was a previous film made in 1921, so theatre and film audiences in Germany at the time would have been familar with the story.

 

The film was also based on the plays "Earth Spirit" and "Pandora's Box" both by Frank Wedekind and you can read about the plays here:

 

"Earth Spirit": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Spirit_%28play%29

 

"Pandora's Box": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pandora%27s_Box_%28play%29

 

As for understanding what was going on in the film, I didn't have any problem.

Maybe it helped that I could read the titles in German - sometimes they expressed more than the English translation below them. I don't know.

 

Oh well, I like "Diary of a Lost Girl" too and it's also considered a classic film of world cinema.

It's more of a social drama dealing with social problems in society and Brooks plays the hero.

 

Read more here on the film:

http://eurekavideo.co.uk/moc/catalogue/diary-of-a-lost-girl/essay

 

Edited by: RMeingast on Nov 5, 2012 4:48 PM

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> {quote:title=Hibi wrote:}{quote}Do you ever stop your research? LOL.

 

 

Oh well... I suppose I just like Louise Brooks too.

Who knows why people like some actors and actresses better than others...

As for research, you obviously have never been a part of the Geek Universe.

I'm nothing compared to some other people...

Think of Comic-Con, for example, and all those people who are fanatics and experts on Klingons and "Xena: Warrior Princess" and who knows what else.

That what library people do, besides hushing library users and looking stern when someone makes a noise, and filing books, etc. They find information. And know how to dig for it.

 

I'll try not to take things so seriously, I guess...

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RM, I did not definitively state that I didn't like *Pandora's Box*. I said it was somewhat confusing, it's often hard to ascertain what exactly is going on, even with subtitles. And I do think it has a very depressing ending, and one that seems to come from out of nowhere. Is this supposed to be Lulu's punishment for her way of living as a sexually "free" being?

 

It seems to me you're over-simplifiying my remarks about the film. I said some positive things about it, notably that I enjoyed Pabst's German Expressionist lines and shadows cinematography, and that Louise Brooks has an unusual charm about her, a kind of innocent look ( despite her presumed history) that makes her an exceptionally beautiful and attractive female lead character. She has possibly the most beguiling smile I've ever seen in an actress.

 

As for the "femme fatale" idea, there are different definitions of the term. To me a femme fatale is a female character who consciously seeks to achieve power over the men in her life, usually by way of using her sexual attractiveness. She will claim to love the male character(s) but she is far more interested in using him to get what she can from him - power, money, knowledge of some kind... She will not hesitate to perform any action that may destroy the man in her quest to get what she wants. The man's death or ruin is not her goal per sec, but rather the regrettable but necessary collateral damage resulting from her actions to acquire what she wants. Throughout this process, she is aware that she is using the man, and chooses to continue her pursuit of power (or riches, etc.) despite any harm that may befall the man she claims to love.

 

Lulu does not conspire to destroy anyone. She may be a catalyst for terrible things to happen, but they happen to her as much as to the men in her life. She is in no way the cunning scheming power-hungry female you see in so many film noirs. If anything, she is an innocent.

 

I dislike the alternative definition of femme fatale, which blames the female character for any harm that befalls the male protagonist, even if she brings about his downfall unintentionally. I find the idea that "it's always the woman's fault" misogynistic.

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Sorry you didn't like it Hibi, Miss W., and others, but that's the way she goes...

 

Yeah, that is the way he goes, RM. So why all the additional words?

 

You running Pandora's Box for president?

 

You have figured out that *opinions* are allowed here, haven't you? I know that you aren't one of the ignorables, RM, so why all the back and forth on this film? missw is one of the good guys/gals, so pretty please with sugar on top (how's that for doublespeak), kindly allow her her own *opinion.*

 

H***, when you come down to it, it's a silent, and I would rather eat glass than watch it.

 

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Yes, those are good points Miss W.

 

I thought, from viewing Brook's facial expressions during certain scenes in the film, that she was possibly more aware of what she was doing and not so innocent.

During the trial scene, I suppose, as an example, where she is on trial for murder and the viewer can see that she appears to deliberately try and beguile the prosecutor (she almost succeeds).

Also the theatre scene where Dr. Schön shows up with his fiance.

Lulu goes ballistic at seeing her rival and the whole thing ends with Schön dumping his fiance and agreeing to marry Lulu.

The marriage reception scene has Lulu with her father (not really clear if he is really her father despite Lulu saying so, but could be an old criminal associate instead?) and another character in her bedroom when Schön finds them. Schön is ticked and grabs a gun and chases them away in front of all the wedding reception guests. This is very humiliating for Schön.

He then demands Lulu shoot herself as she has "caused" him so much trouble.

Somehow, however, the gun goes off and Schön is shot instead.

The filming of that scene is very telling. It starts with Schön putting a pistol in Lulu's hand and forcing her hand to turn the gun towards herself, then Schön moves so his back is in front of the camera and the viewer can't see the gun or who is holding it and which way it is pointed.

The gun fires, and Schön slowly falls away revealing Lulu holding the pistol.

So, considering the love/hate relationship between Schön and Lulu in the film (that you see in other scenes), could it be that Schön in his initial anger wanted Lulu to kill herself to save him from further problems, or did Schön change his mind during the scene and turn Lulu's hand towards himself and force her to pull the trigger, shooting him and thereby somehow admitting he was to blame for what had happened to his life rather than Lulu?

Because even after he is shot, he doesn't try to harm Lulu. He even touches her hair softly before he falls and dies.

 

 

Anyway, this is getting long. Later in the film there are other deadly shenanigans where Lulu plays an active role. I just don't think she is as innocent as she appears in the film.

 

 

But that is open to interpretation...

 

 

No problems, Miss W. Sorry if I misunderstood or misread your opinion on the flick.

I stand humbly chastened.

 

Edited by: RMeingast on Nov 5, 2012 5:54 PM

Getting tired so fixing grammar.

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Just some other thoughts to toss out about "Pandora's Box" that occured to me while I was watching the movie, but I forgot to mention in other posts below.

 

While watching the film, I was struck by the similarities to "Gilda" too.

Besides the women - Lulu and Gilda - you have a love triangle.

In "Pandora's Box," it's between Lulu, Dr. Schön and his son Alwa.

(Lulu and Alwa are about the same age and the father Dr. Schön is a much older man. In the first part of the film, the relationship is between the father, Dr. Schön, and his mistress, Lulu, but the son Alwa also has feelings for Lulu. This becomes apparent during the second part of the film when Alwa and Lulu go into hiding together from the police.)

In "Gilda" you have the love triangle between Gilda, the older man Ballin Mundson, and the younger man Johnny Farrell. And in the film Ballin treats Johnny pretty much like a son.

You also have the love/hate theme of the relationship in "Gilda" between Johnny and Gilda.

In "Pandora's Box," it's between Dr. Schön and Lulu.

Also the death of one of the members of the love triangle in both films - Dr. Schön in "Pandora's Box" and Ballin in "Gilda."

I suppose you can also argue that both movie endings are rather silly - in "Gilda" and in "Pandora's Box."

 

Another thing that occured in the movie was Lulu's escape from the courthouse during her trial.

There's a commotion, chaos ensues and Lulu escapes.

Now in what other film is there a courtroom escape by an accused?

Orson Welles does it in "The Lady from Shanghai."

His character in that film is on trial for murder, as Lulu was in "Pandora's Box."

In the Welles film, there's a commotion (caused by Welles) and in the ensuing chaos, Welles escapes. A little different in "Pandora's Box" in that Lulu doesn't directly cause the commotion, but the same thing happens, she escapes in the ensuing confusion...

You could also compare Hayworth's character Elsa in that film to Lulu, but have gone on enough...

 

Interesting book written by UC Berkeley Professor of Film Mary Anne Doane titled "Femmes Fatales: Feminism, Film Theory, Psychoanalysis" ( New York: Routledge, 1991.)here:

 

http://books.google.ca/books?id=ALcRTt4YktwC&printsec=frontcover&dq=femmes+fatales&hl=en&sa=X&ei=s46YUNepNKbY2gXcrYGwAw&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=femmes%20fatales&f=false

 

Think I might even try to get a copy at local library to read meself...

It has a photo of Louise Brooks on the cover and discusses "Pandora's Box" and "Gilda" and other things... Looks like a good dose of "feminist film criticism" that'll help keep me going in the cold weather now upon us in Canadaland...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Glad I'm not the only one who was confused by this film, but only because then I don't feel so "thick".

I'm sure there are MANY people who "get" this film...like RM, and I'm kind of jealous! I love your descriptions and comments.

 

Some films are like that, black comedies especially. Either you "get it" or you don't, no explanation is going to help you. Only repeat viewings may help turn the light bulb on.

 

2001 A Space Odyssey is like that-I get it and completely understand when someone says, "what a long, dull film". Although I usually love P&P films, The Red Shoes is another I just can't "get" and after 3 viewings, I'm done with it.

 

Louise Brooks is someone I've held dear since I was a teen. Photos of her are all over my house. I hung around her apartment hoping to catch a glimpse of her in her later years but never did. This is her signature film, I'll give it another chance and hope it clicks for me like it does for RM.

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Pandora's Box is one of those movies you either "get" or "don't get". You either love it or you don't. Personally it's either in my top 10 or very close. The acting, the atmosphere, the evocation of the whole Weimar period. To me it's sort of like Cabaret for grownups, minus the music, the difference between Disneyland and reality. Unless you simply don't like this whole type of movie, and the problem is that you don't "get it", I'd strongly recommnend a repeat viewing. I've now seen it three times and each showing makes it both more comprehensible and more enjoyable.

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