Friday, May 25, 2012

The Devil Is a Woman

Paholainen on nainen / Djävulen är en kvinna. US © 1935 Paramount Productions. Presented by Adolph Zukor. EX: Emanuel Cohen. P+D: Josef von Sternberg. Adaptation: John Dos Passos - continuity: Sam Winston (as S.K. Winston) – based on the novel (1898) and the play (1910) La Femme et le pantin by Pierre Louÿs. DP: Josef von Sternberg, [Lucien Ballard, n.c.]. AD: Hans Dreier, Josef von Sternberg. Cost: Travis Banton. M arranger: Max Rabinowitz. M director: Andrea Setaro. Themes based on »Capriccio espagnol, op. 34» ("Каприччио на испанские темы") (1887) by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Spanish folk music. Song: »Three Sweethearts Have I» (comp. Ralph Rainger, lyrics Leo Robin), perf. Marlene Dietrich. "Then It Isn't Love" (Rainger, Robin). S: Harry D. Mills. ED: Sam Winston. C: Marlene Dietrich (Concha Perez), Lionel Atwill (Capt. Don Pasqual Costelar), Cesar Romero (Antonio Galvan), Edward Everett Horton (Gov. Don Paquito), Alison Skipworth (Señora Perez). Helsinki premiere: 18.8.1935 Gloria - tv: 6.6.1977 MTV1 - classification: 19051 – K16. Print viewed 80 min. A Svenska Filminstitutet print of the UCLA restoration viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (I Love You, I Film You), 25 May 2012.

Previous remarks: The last film among the seven that Josef von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich made together, the favourite of them both. The story of degradation through love has affinities with The Blue Angel, but there is no social dimension in The Devil Is a Woman. Instead there is a vision of a fantasy Spain, which, however, infuriated the diplomats of real Spain so much that they threatened to boycott the entire production of Paramount. It was not proper to show the career of a distinguished officer destroyed by a woman of easy virtue. The movie is a psychological, almost mythic portrait of a relationship where love leads to humiliation. The cyclical structure of the movie is based on the arousal and denial of passion. Alexander Walker has compared the way Concha humiliates Don Pasqual to the way the buttons, stripes and medals of an officer who has committed treason are ripped down on the parade ground. Visually, The Devil Is a Woman is a culmination of Sternberg's work. The movie, whose way of storytelling and thinking defied the norms of Hollywood, was a turning-point in Sternberg's life. His collaboration with Marlene Dietrich ended, his contract with Paramount was not renewed, and a curse fell on his career.

New remarks: The Devil Is a Woman is a comedy (or maybe even a farce) where The Blue Angel was a tragedy. The comedy aspect is made clear at once with the announcements of Don Paquito (Edward Everett Horton), who opens the carneval during which the story takes place. Because of this farcical atmosphere the protest of the Spanish government of the time is the biggest joke concerning the movie. But the farcical atmosphere also takes the bite away from the story of humiliation through love. The men are puppets in Concha's hands, but she is a comic creature, herself. In The Blue Angel there was one big clown; in The Devil Is a Woman all are clowns.

Of the two rivals, Don Pasqual is a degraded officer, Antonio a revolutionary Republican wanted by the police.

The Devil Is a Woman is image-driven. The Devil Is a Woman and The Saga of Anatahan are the two movies where Sternberg, himself, was also the director of photography. Visually, the movie is marvellous, a feast for the eyes, full of imagination and explorations of light and shadow, not only in the Spanish carnival, but also in the snowbound train caught in an avalanche, in the duel sequence in pouring rain, and in the hospital where the seriously injured Don Pasqual lies having refused to even point at Antonio.

The restoration is another heroic feat from UCLA, fighting against the odds after Paramount burned their nitrate originals. Brilliant work which looks much better than there is any right to expect from the sources that have been available.

No comments: