Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Centenary Tribute to Louise Brooks

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art presents A Centenary Tribute to Louise Brooks, October 12 - 21. Click here for more info.
October 12 - October 21 
A Centenary Tribute to Louise Brooks
 Louise Brooks was born one-hundred years ago this November 14 in Cherryvale, Kansas. Though she lived a mere six of her seventy-nine years in the glare of celebrity, she has become a cinematic icon without equal. A trained dancer who toured with Martha Graham, Brooks happily ascended to showgirl heaven in the Ziegfeld Follies, where she honed her real talents: attending parties and dazzling men. Brooks started a fashion craze with her geometric black haircut and soon appeared in magazines as an emblem of the Roaring Twenties. When the movies came knocking, she started packing, and after a brief affair with Charlie Chaplin in the summer of 1925, Brooks surfaced in Hollywood with a Paramount Pictures contract. She later married director Edward Sutherland, blazed a trail through the celebrity colony, and attracted plenty of photographers along the way. Unfortunately, her career was going nowhere until a third-act role as a gold-digging circus performer in Howard Hawks’s A Girl in Every Port caught the eye of the renowned German director Georg Wilhelm Pabst. Under pressure to cast the part of Lulu, the amoral temptress at the heart of Pandora’s Box, Pabst miraculously saw in Brooks an actress who, in the poetic words of critic Lotte Eisner, “Needed no directing, but could move across the screen causing the work of art to be born by her mere presence.” Brooks flew immediately to Berlin and embarked on a creative collaboration that produced three major films (of which one is considered a masterpiece) and ensured her fame for generations to come.

The story of Louise Brooks’s disappearance, rediscovery, and rehabilitation is a fascinating biography. By 1930, the icon had been etched on celluloid and the legend seeded. One of the curious aspects of Louise Brooks is how her admirers have tried to express her mysterious effects on the viewer. In 1955 Henri Langlois, director of the Cinematheque française, proclaimed to the audience, “There is no Garbo! There is no Dietrich! There is only Louise Brooks!” Anita Loos, the author of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, is the most succinct in her reference to Brooks as the most beautiful of all “black-haired blondes.” However, nothing equals theater critic Kenneth Tynan’s verbal paroxysm, with phrases like “shameless urchin tomboy” and “prairie princess,” before he retreats to the relatively sage “a creature of impulse, a creator of impulses, a temptress with no pretensions.” Perhaps Brooks put it best herself when she dryly wrote, “I guess Lulu’s life is about as close to my own as anyone’s can be.”

The films in this tribute are silent with live musical accompaniment.

Thursday, October 12, 7:30 PM
Pandora's Box
Friday, October 13, 7:30 PM
Pandora's Box
Saturday, October 14, 7:30 PM
Pandora's Box
Friday, October 20, 7:30 PM
A Girl in Every Port
Diary of a Lost Girl
Saturday, October 21, 7:30 PM
Prix de Beauté (the restored silent version, with spoken translation of the French intertitles)
Along with the four film series being presented by the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York this looks like the most ambitious series of screening happening in the United States.

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