Saturday, October 13, 2012

Tempeste di passione / Stürme der Leidenschaft / Tempest (Italian version)

DE 1931. PC: Ufa, Berlin. D: Robert Siodmak; P: Erich Pommer; SC: Robert Liebmann, Hans Müller; DP: Günther Rittau, Otto Baecker, asst. Karl Plintzner; ED: Viktor Gertler; AD: Erich Kettelhut; cost: René Hubert; make-up: Waldemar Jabs; ass D: Viktor Gertler; asst: Kurt Hoffmann; rec: Fritz Thiery; M: Friedrich Hollaender; lyrics: Richard Busch, Robert Liebmann, Friedrich Hollaender; C: Emil Jannings (Gustav Bumke), Anna Sten (Anna, called “Russian Anya”), Trude Hesterberg (Yvonne, Anna’s friend), Franz Nicklisch (Willy Prawanzke), Otto Wernicke (Chief Detective Goebel), Hans Deppe (Nuschler), Hans Reimann (Max), Julius Falkenstein (Paul), Anton Pointner (photographer Ralph Kruschewski), Wilhelm Bendow (Emmerich), Hermann Vallentin (warden); orig. l: 2833 m; 35 mm, 2528 m, 91' (24 fps), sd. (Italian version with original dialogue suppressed); print source: Fondazione Cineteca Italiana, Milano. Didascalie in italiano. Teatro Verdi, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone (Anna Sten), e-subtitles in English, grand piano: X, 13 Oct 2012.

Peter Bagrov: "Stürme der Leidenschaft (literally, “Storms of Passion”) marked the highest point in Anna Sten’s German career. She was now a “legitimate” Ufa star with all the consequences: an unpredictably vivid, ironic, intelligent, deliberately modern and deliberately modest girl turned into a somewhat plump blonde displaying round shoulders on most of the postcards and publicity photos. Some of those photographs caught an absolutely unexpected likeness to Brigitte Helm, while others revealed a resemblance to Lilian Harvey. But the general aim was to present Anna Sten as the new Marlene Dietrich, whose departure to the United States at the moment of the premiere of The Blue Angel was a serious blow for Ufa."

"So this time Sten was put in a Blue Angel milieu: teamed with Emil Jannings in a screenplay co-written by Robert Liebmann, shot by Günter Rittau, and even provided with a song by Friedrich Hollaender. Jannings too placed great hopes on Storms of Passion, his third talking picture, following The Blue Angel, where he was overshadowed by Dietrich’s triumph, and a modestly successful comedy, Liebling der Götter (Darling of the Gods)."

"Yet the film didn’t become a vehicle for either Sten or Jannings. Both screen personalities were effortlessly and skilfully exploited by the director Robert Siodmak, who was to enjoy international success with both the German and French versions of Storms (the French one, with a completely different cast led by Charles Boyer and Florelle, was released as Tumultes), leading to his career in France and, eventually, in Hollywood."

"“The story of ‘Stürme der Leidenschaft’ is just another one of those underworld things. Indeed, one might even say that ‘Underworld’ thing,” declared the New York Times, referring to Josef von Sternberg’s 1927 melodrama. Yet, the Germans had their own tradition of underworld films, including Bruno Rahn’s Dirnentragödie (Tragedy of the Street, 1927), Joe May’s Asphalt (1929, shot by the same Günther Rittau who worked on Storms of Passion) and Phil Jutzi’s recently released Berlin-Alexanderplatz (1931). What distinguished Siodmak’s work from these, as well as from Hollywood gangster films like Little Caesar or Public Enemy, was a complete lack of pathos and bourgeois didacticism. The authors and the characters set no hopes upon supreme justice – whether juridical or heavenly. Thus the underworld was presented not as a “sore on the body of society”, but – with a good-natured cynicism – simply as model of one."

"Siodmak was not eager to work with Jannings, having had no sympathy either for his expressive style, or for his tendency to improvise and “direct the directors”, or for the Ufa star system in general. But with the help of Erich Pommer he managed to tame the great actor with the threat to replace him with the rising star Hans Albers. In consequence the critics were quite impressed by a restraint uncharacteristic of Jannings and his ability to become an organic part of an ensemble rather than dominating a supporting cast. They went as far as to claim the birth of “a new Jannings”. Whether or not this is true, Storms of Passion was to be arguably his last international success."

"Anna Sten certainly gained popularity with this picture (along with Der Mörder Dimitri Karamasoff), but critical appraisal was diverse. She was criticized for unsuccessfully copying Dietrich even in her singing manner. (This was true, alas! That same year a vocal expert in Hollywood pronounced an impartial verdict: “She has a small but highly disagreeable voice.”) Yet Siodmak caught maybe the most attractive quality of her acting: spontaneity. One of the most psychologically convincing – and unpredictable – sequences in the film is Bumke’s attempt to strangle his unfaithful mistress; when his grip loosens for a second, instead of screaming or trying to escape Anya embraces him nervously and then faints in his arms. Bumke stares at her expressionless face – and kisses her. (In the French version this mise-en-scène was replicated with a slight adjustment to suit the nature of its stars: when the girl faints it’s not her face but her décolleté at which Boyer stares.)"

"Storms of Passion is often considered a precursor of Siodmak’s film noirs of the 1940s, in particular The Killers (1946) and Criss Cross (1949). This may be true in terms of subject and the aforementioned amorality, but the degree of stylization is quite different. Storms of Passion is a transitional film that still – in terms of acting and lighting – bears elements of Siodmak’s semi-documentary, semi-plotless masterpieces Menschen am Sonntag (People on Sunday, 1930) and Abschied (Farewell, 1930), and on the other hand has the calculated rhythm of Brennendes Geheimnis (Burning Secret, 1933) and his elegant French films. This rhythm – strange as it may seem – emerges from the Ufa musicals of the early 1930s. Which is no surprise, since both scriptwriters collaborated on some of the most significant specimens of the genre – Robert Liebmann on Der Kongreß tanzt (The Congress Dances, 1931), Hans Müller on Lubitsch’s Monte Carlo (1930) and The Smiling Lieutenant (1930), and both of them on Liebeswalzer (Love Waltz, 1930). More important, Siodmak’s chief assistant Viktor Gertler was an expert in musical editing, whose filmography includes the first German musical, Melodie des Herzens (1929), as well as Der Kongreß tanzt, Die Drei von der Tankstelle (The Three from the Filling Station, 1930), and Peter (1934). No wonder that Siodmak’s next film was to be a Lilian Harvey circus comedy, Quick (1932)."

"The Italian distribution version of Storms of Passion is one of the most bizarre foreign-language adaptations of the early sound period. The original soundtrack was replaced by a new musical score – except for Hollaender’s hit song “Ich weiß nicht zu wem ich gehöre” (literally, “I don’t know to whom I belong”), bits and pieces of which can be heard in Anna Sten’s performance. The German dialogue was replaced with Italian intertitles, translated by Camillo Bruto Bonzi, making Tempeste di passione virtually a silent film (and justifying its inclusion in this programme). The picture did not benefit from that, since in the original version Siodmak took advantage both of Jannings’ perfect and Sten’s imperfect German; the German audience – let alone the Russian émigrés – were moved by her babble – “D’ushen’ka” [“sweetheart”], addressed to each of the three lovers with equal naïve sincerity. Despite such losses, this clumsy Italian re-editing of a German film offers a curious example of the silent/sound “interregnum”." PETER BAGROV

AA: I checked just the beginning and observed the beautiful visual quality of this strange print and got an impression of the performances of Emil Jannings and Anna Sten in the direction of Robert Siodmak.

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