Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Legendary Sin Cities

I recently rented a DVD documentary, Legendary Sin Cities, which I want to recommend.  This three-part Canadian CBC documentary focuses on the most notoriously decadent cities in modern history: Berlin, Paris and Shanghai during the 1920s and 1930s. I was especially impressed with the uncommon film clips, intelligent commentary, and interesting line-up of experts offering perspective and opinion.

Plot Synopsis: Of all the remarkable events of this century perhaps the most fascinating has been the spontaneous growth, flowering and then decay of a handful of great cities. These cities were places where art, culture and political liberties co-mingled with corruption, brutality and decadence. Everything and just about anyone could be bought and sold. The immigrant would struggle beside the artist. Gamblers, thieves and prostitutes co-habited with soul-savers, the rich and the powerful. The exhilarating combination of the seamy with the sublime made these places a magnet for all the lost souls and refugees of the world. Pushing the limits of tolerance and freedom, they defined the social, political and sexual culture of the 20th century.

Contemporary footage mixed with rare and richly evocative archival films, stock shots and stills give resonance to the stories of an extraordinary cast of characters: novelists and artists, musicians and journalists, rogues and sinners. Added to the mix are excerpts from feature films, married with the music of those remarkable times. What results is a richly drawn portrait of a time and place that helped define our century. Contains nudity :) but no mention of Louise Brooks, who briefly inhabited both Berlin and Paris in their decadent heyday.

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