Tuesday, 2 March 2010
E. A. Dupont's Varieté 1925
In a letter to ten Holder in October 1951, Lowry picks out Dupont's classic silent film as one of the greatest ever German films. Lowry says that nothing would have made him happier if Under The Volcano had been made into a movie in Germany.
One of the seminal works of silent cinema, this love-triangle melodrama among vaudeville acrobats was lauded by no less than the likes of Jean Mitry and Gilles Deleuze for infusing German expressionism into the norms of classical film grammar (i.e. shot/reverse shot and subjective-objective cinematography). Historical importance aside, it’s a conventional affair with a cheap salvation ending, graced with excellent performances by Emil Jannings (a hard sell as a 250 lb. acrobat, but fun to watch for his strenuous conviction) and proto-vamp Lya de Putti as his cheating wife. Dupont would apply his considerable talents to a more interesting script with 1929’s Piccadilly, but the innovative lensing of the immortal Karl Freund, especially during the thrilling acrobatic sequences, keeps the mise-en-scene lively. Imagine having never seen a shot fly through the air before and you can get a sense of what audiences, critics and subjective lens film theorists went crazy about. Read an excellent write up on the film and the E.A. Dupont on the Shooting Down Pictures website
Unfortunately, the Youtube video referred to in the above article has been taken down. You can buy the American version from Grapevine Video.
You can also find a short video essay on Variety featuring commentary by Kristin Thompson, author of The Frodo Franchise and co-author of Film Art: An Introduction and Film History: An Introduction here:
Also check out a short post on Commentary Track by Helen Geib which details the censorship of the film in the USA.