Monday, October 26, 2009

47. Der Blaue Engel/The Blue Angel (1930)

Running Time: 101 minutes
Directed By: Josef von Sternberg
Written By: Carl Zuckmayer, from the novel "Professor Unrat" by Heinrich Mann
Main Cast: Emil Jannings, Marlene Dietrich, Kurt Gerron


The thirties bust onto the scene with a vengeance, providing me with an exceptional German film starring the wonderful performances of Emil Jannings and Marlene Dietrich.

Jannings plays Professor Emmanuel Rath, a teacher at the local college who is respected by everyone but his students, who write notes about him behind his back and secretly call him "Professor Garbage". When Rath finds out how his pupils are spending their evenings, down at the Blue Angel nightclub, under the spell of the cabaret's headliner Lola Lola, he follows them there one night, in an attempt to catch them in the act and make sure they are properly punished. Upon arriving at the Blue Angel, Rath is almost automatically swept up and quickly finds himself in the dressing room of Lola Lola, as she undresses in front of him, leaving him quite taken aback.

Rath falls short of catching his students at the Blue Angel, but returns to the cabaret the next night in an attempt to once again meet with the gorgeous, sassy singer and apologize for his crude, abrupt behavior of the previous night. The meeting goes well and once again Rath is swept up in the fast paced world of the cabaret and quickly finds himself filled with champagne and waking up the next morning in the bed of Lola Lola. She treats him well, something he isn't used to, and sends him off to work with a kiss, breakfast and many terms of endearment.

Upon arriving at school, he finds his students immediately ridiculing him for falling in love with Lola and after causing a ruckus and drawing other professors into the room, the students are dismissed and so is Professor Rath. He returns to the cabaret, only to find Lola Lola and her crew packing up and moving out of town. Professor Rath wastes no time asking Lola to marry him and getting an acceptance from her.
What would seem like a happy ending, is not, as the marriage is the first stop on a train to complete downfall for the good professor. After losing all their money, Rath is reduced to taking on the role of a clown in the traveling cabaret act and is almost frightened to learn that the act will be returning to the professor's hometown and the Blue Angel nightclub. What will Rath's former colleagues think when they see the once respected professor, traipsing around onstage dressed as a clown.

Jannings and Dietrich are both sublime in their roles and Jannings deserves even more praise. Much like his role in The Last Laugh, Jannings' character in this film is reduced to absolutely nothing and von Sternberg does an excellent job mastering and plotting that downfall. You really start to feel sorry for the good professor after a while and want to reach out when he's down and lift him back up. You also get a sense that the professor is just a lonely guy, as one of the first scenes in the film shows Rath awakening from a night's slumber only to find that his pet canary has died. With absolutely no remorse, his maid takes the dead bird and throws it into the fire, and Rath is left with a befuddled look on his face. Poor guy!! This film was great, as I truly enjoyed it and hope that its a sign of things to come in the 1930's.

RATING: 8.5/10 I took it down a notch or so, for the singing scenes as the German songs really didn't do a whole lot for me and I could've done without them. No biggie though.

NEXT UP: The Age of Gold...Luis Bunuel directs...Oh man, more weirdness!!

October 26, 2009 1:26am

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