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Archive for July 1st, 2011

by Allan Fish

(Germany 1929 94m) DVD2 (Italy only)

I want to see you…

p  Paul Czinner  d  Paul Czinner  w  Paul Czinner  novel  Arthur Schnitzler  ph  Karl Freund  m  Marlene Kuntz  (reissue)  art  Erich Kettelhut

Elisabeth Bergner (Else Thalhof), Albert Bassermann (Dr Alfred Thalhof), Albert Steinrück (Von Dorsday), Grit Hegesa (Cissy Mohr), Else Heller (Frau Thalhof), Adele Sandrock (Tante Emma), Jack Trevor (Paul), Irmgard Bern, Ellen Plessow,

Elisabeth Bergner is one of those figures that can make one either weep with emotion or with laughter, an elfin Germanic waif with more than a faintly androgynous persona.  I first saw her in Korda’s Catherine the Great, in which she played the infamous Catherine in as hilarious a piece of miscasting as you could ever witness; like having Brigitte Bardot play Joan of Arc.  Our sympathies were well and truly with Doug Jnr’s mad Peter, hoping Fairbanks and Korda would screw history and have him throttle the little madam.  Czinner was her wife by then, but he’d been her Svengali every bit as much as Von Sternberg had been Dietrich’s.  Czinner wasn’t in Von Sternberg’s class as a director but he knew how to make a film and its plot orbit round a star, his star, his wife.  Yet when she played Catherine she was 36 and would still go on to play in Escape Me Never and opposite Larry Olivier no less in As You Like It, in which she was described as the more masculine of the two.  Yet Bergner was once a legend, a figure beloved on the European stage and, if she never really was on film what she was on stage, she remains fascinating.  She’s generally dismissed by serious critics these days, all of which makes the restoration and rediscovery of Fraulein Else something to be shouted from the rooftops.  Okay, so it’s no masterpiece but it is a revelatory film for any one of a number of reasons. (more…)

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