The moviehead re-rediscovery of flapper chic continues with this rarely seen French cornerstone (released in 1930), starring a free-from-expressionism-at-last Louise Brooks, she of the iconic jet-black bob, androgynous figure, and laser sight line. She plays a typist at a Parisian newspaper who, despite the snitty protestations of her fiance (Georges Charlia), enters and wins a Miss Europe beauty pageant, which is when her biggest conflicts begin. Italian journeyman Augusto Genina's film is far from conventional in tone - the pre-fem awakening of Brooks's unpretentious everygirl starts with a chilly carnival moment when she realizes all of the men around her, including her boyfriend, are grotesque fools. The breathtakingly lurid finale, set in a screening room, has an almost necrophilic obsessiveness. (The film did turn out to be Brooks's swan song to stardom; she picked up supporting work in Hollywood and England for a few years, but then quit movies in disgust, at the age of 31.) But the movie's ramshackle form is what makes it truly fascinating: It's a vintage example of a fleeting breed, the unsynchronized early talkie (a lost silent version was also made), often avoiding the actor's moving mouths altogether and then suturing the narrative with a frenetic soundtrack of dubbing, ambient noise, and music. (Rene Clair, whose original story was adapted by Brooks pal G.W. Pabst, pulled off a similar but more visual coup with the nearly silent Under the Roofs of Paristhe same year.) A newspaper quote included on the DVD attests that Genina's patchwork approach, which represented "an ideal model for the talkie," was easily dubbed into seven languages - a paramount concern on the tongue-twisted European mainland circa 1930. Extras include promotional art, including ad art by famed costume designer Boris Bilinsky.
Saturday, April 8, 2006
Louise Brooks's Swan Song to Stardom
The Village Voice ran a short review of the new Prix de Beaute DVD in their April 7th issue. The article, "Louise Brooks's Swan Song to Stardom," is by Michael Atkinson.
Posted by thomas gladysz / Louise Brooks Society