Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Notes on my Favorite Films (Year By Year) Pandora's Box (1929)

Haunting, disturbing, seductive and completely unforgettable, Georg Wilhelm Pabst's 1929 epic Pandora's Box is, simply put, one of the greatest films ever made. It is also one of the most important, as its influence can be felt in not only films but also fashion, music, painting, and popular culture in general. Enveloped in a cloud of mystery, sensuality and eroticism, Pandora's Box is one of those films that to this day feels quite unlike any other movie ever made. This fact is all the more remarkable when one does consider the incredible influence it has had. Adapted from two Frank Wedekind plays and starring the extraordinary Louise Brooks, Pandora's Box is an experience quite unlike any other and it remains one of silent cinema's towering achievements.
With many different versions existing, and an initial muted reception from the public and critics that would finally began to turn to justified rhapsody as the European and American New Waves began to emerge in the fifties, it took quite awhile for Pandora's Box to really catch fire. Perhaps Louise Brooks was simply too much to handle, as it is safe to say that despite all of the power and ingenuity found in Pabst's stirring direction that Pandora's Box wouldn't cast the spell it does if it wasn't for Louise Brook's mesmerizing turn as the doomed Lulu. Watching Brooks in the film is still a pulverizing experience, so much so that it is hard to connect this near demonic European sexual icon with the creative young girl who had come into the world 22 years before in a small railroading Kansas town with a population of well under 2000 people.

It is very much to Pabst's credit that he saw something in Brooks no one else had. While she had proven excellent in several films up to that point, nothing Brooks had done would have suggested she could take such a strange and absolute possession of Lulu in Pabst's lens. Brook's performance in the film is one of cinema's greatest and, to this day, she still lays to waste the legion of copycats that have tried to adapt her style and persona in the past eight decades.

G.W. Pabst's Pandora's Box is thankfully now available in a splendid double-disc set from Criterion, a fact that thankfully makes it now one of the easiest great silent works for fans to watch and study.


dfordoom said...

The other Pabst-Brooks collaboration, Diary of a Lost Girl, has been rather overshadowed but it's worth seeing as well.

And Louise Brooks also wrote what is possibly the best book ever written about movies, Lulu in Hollywood.

chainedandperfumed said...

Every time I'm reminded that she was just 22 when that film was made, I am floored. Unreal.