Pandora’s Box

Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora’s Box 1929) Director: G.W. Pabst

This German film is the most well known erotic melodrama starring Louise Brooks. Sporting a “bobbed” flapper haircut, she plays the elusive and sexual femme fatale, Lulu, who brings ruin to all the men she seduces. She is the mistress of a middle-aged newspaper publisher, who she forces into marrying her, though he is already engaged, however he relents so as not to ruin his reputation. On the day of their wedding, he catches her seducing two other men, and grabs his pistol but in the ensuing disagreement, he is accidentally shot and killed. At her murder trial she is whisked away when a fire alarm is pulled and chaos ensues, and she is forced into exile. She is treated like a slave, and eventually winds up in a slum in London, working as a prostitute. Her first client is modeled on Jack the Ripper, and the audience is led to believe she is stabbed to death in the end.

G.W. Pabst: Georg Wilhelm Pabst was an Austrian director. He was captured as a prisoner of war during World War I. He returned to life in Europe and was encouraged to pursue film, with Pandora’s Box being his most famous film. He died in Vienna in 1967, after living through the Nazi years.

Louise Brooks: She was born in Kansas, and was sexually assaulted by a man she knew at a young age. In later years, her mother suggested it was because she was ‘leading on’ the man. In any case this affected her sexuality for the rest of her life. She began her career as a dancer, and was also one of Ziegfeld’s Follies on Broadway. She had a brief affair with Charlie Chaplin, the first of many affairs with men in Hollywood. She was close friends with Marion Davies, the mistress of William Randolph Hearst, and frequently visited his castle in San Simeon. She eventually lost interest in Hollywood and went bankrupt, dancing in nightclubs to pay the bills. She worked odd jobs and was found living as a recluse in New York when a revival of her early career was made in the 1950s and she became a writer of film. Pandora’s Box her most fondly remembered film.

Review

★★★☆☆

Pandora’s Box was a well-known play and film at the time, though this version was highly controversial for its blatant eroticism, and even lesbianism. It is a beautifully edited film, with some impressive movements of the camera, and is a compelling and moving story. It is a long movie, at more than two hours in length.

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