Posts Tagged ‘Weimar Republic’

“It’s strange how you can get booze on credit but not bread.”This quote is from Pandora’s Box(1929), which sums up Germany’s Weimar Republic.

Can we not sum up the spirit of consumerism in the US? “You have to be 21 years of age if you want to purchase booze. But you can buy and own a gun if you are 19”. (USA, 2018)

That is economics of death. Those who subscribe to consumerism as an indicator of nation’s Happiness would not want to know the economics of life. Life is cheap indeed if you can press lethal gun its hand give blank check to kill as much  with impunity. It is money in the bank for every empty cartridge. The same politicians who pillory  woman caught in economic mire for undergoing abortion turn a blind eye on gun control. These are the ones who make ‘Right to own a gun as a badge of ‘courage’.What is Dutch courage and what we see now: a man feels ‘naked’ without a gun? Where integrity of man has gone to I wonder. It is the ‘bone spur’ of our times  and shake it before the Army so you may excuse from serving the nation when it needs you most.

Would the 19 year school shooter have had the guns had President Trump let safety controls in place?

Tailspin: Decree revoking gun sales to those with severe mental problems was Trump’s own doing. He signed the bill rolling back 2013 Obama era strict back ground checks into law without a photo op or fanfare. The president welcomed cameras into the oval office Tuesday for the signing of other executive orders and bills. The NRA“applauded” Trump’s action (ack: NBC news).


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(German: Die Büchse der Pandora)

The title is a reference to Pandora of Greek mythology, who upon opening a box given to her by the gods released all evils into the world, leaving only hope behind. The lead role is played by Lousie Brooks as Lulu. She is a young and impulsive vaudeville performer whose raw sexuality and uninhibited nature bring about the downfall of almost everyone she meets. Indeed her asset is her body which, to use a metaphor, was like the box. She only needed to open it, and as we see in this silent film, what havoc it could wreak on men as well as women of certain attitude. Incidentally in Countess Anna we have the cinema’s first lesbian character.
Pandora’s Box is a German silent melodrama based loosely on Frank Wedekind’s plays Erdgeist (Earth Spirit, 1895) and Die Büchse der Pandora (1904). Wedekind’s plays in his time were controversial to say the least. Satire was a weapon more like a red rag to be shaken at the middle-class morality and the solid citizenry in Germany were bedeviled by the impossible and more perverse than natural conduct in Lulu. Widekind was not exceptional in this. From the turn of  the century there were two opposing forces at work in Imperial Germany and both were curiously born out of self same causes. Perversity, vampirism and similar lurid subjects that were taboo till then began to appear as a reaction to a very moribund German national life. Lulu was a creature, an intellectual shock therapy on one hand from Widekind is an example. The other form of shock was prescribed by Deeds and came from wandervögels (birds of passage). The latter were  from well-to-do middle class families and this movement was hellbent to attack school, home and church. The latter group was to transform into Freikorps at the end of WWI.The latter played a part in helping Hitler to power while it marked the exodus of intellectuals to safer havens.

This film is directed by Austrian filmaker Georg Wilhelm Pabst, the film stars Louise Brooks as Lulu, Fritz Kortner as Dr. Schön, Francis Lederer as Alwa Schön and Alice Roberts as Countess Geschwitz.
The plot revolves around many loves of Lulu, her rise and fall. She marries a respectable newspaper publisher, but soon drives him into insanity, climaxing in an incident in which she accidentally shoots him to death. Found guilty of manslaughter, she escapes from justice with the help of her former pimp (whom she considers her father) and the son of her dead husband, who is also in love with her. After spending several months hiding in an illegal gambling den in France, where Lulu is nearly sold into slavery, Lulu and her friends end up living in squalor in a London garret. On Christmas Eve, driven into prostitution by poverty, Lulu meets her doom at the hands of Jack the Ripper.
Pandora’s Box was already adapted to the screen by Arzén von Cserépy in 1921 in Germany under the same title with Asta Nielsen in the roll as Lulu. There were musical, plays and other cinema features of the film at the time and the story of Pandora’s Box was commonplace in culture. This allowed Pabst to make liberties with the story of the film.(wikipedia)
Directed by     G. W. Pabst
Produced by     Seymour Nebenzal
Written by     G. W. Pabst
Ladislaus Vajda
Cinematography     Günther Krampf
Distributed by     Süd-Film
Release date(s)     Germany:
30 January, 1929
Running time     100-152 mins. (US)
133 mins. (dir. cut)
Country     Germany
Language     silent film
German intertitle
* Fritz Körtner as Dr. Ludwig Schön
* Francis Lederer as Alwa Schön: Dr. Ludwig Schön son.
* Carl Goetz as Schigolch: there is no real definiton of his relation to Lulu but it is suggested in the film that he is or has acted as a sort of pimp for Lulu.
* Krafft-Raschig as Rodrigo Quast
* Alice Roberts as Countess Anna Geschwitz: Geschwitz is defined by her masculine look with her tuxedo suit that she wears.
* Daisy D’Ora as Dr. Schön’s Fiance
* Gustav Diessl as Jack the Ripper
* Michael von Newlinsky as Marquis Casti-Piani
* Sigfried Arno as The Stage Manager
Similar Movies
Diary of a Lost Girl  (1929, G.W. Pabst)
The Blue Angel  (1930, Josef von Sternberg)
Queen Kelly  (1929, Erich Von Stroheim)
The Wild Heart  (1950, Rouben Mamoulian, Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger)
A Breath of Scandal  (1960, Michael Curtiz)
Looking for Mr. Goodbar  (1977, Richard Brooks)
Klondike Annie  (1936, Raoul Walsh)
Afgrunden  (1910, Peter Urban Gad)
Movies with the Same Personnel
Diary of a Lost Girl  (1929, G.W. Pabst)
Kameradschaft  (1931, G.W. Pabst)
Westfront 1918  (1930, G.W. Pabst)
The Threepenny Opera  (1931, G.W. Pabst)
Don Quixote  (1933, G.W. Pabst)
Der Prozess  (1948, G.W. Pabst)
The Strange Death of Adolf Hitler  (1943, James Hogan)
Die Stadt ist voller Geheimnisse  (1955, Fritz Kortner)

* Louise Brooks as Lulu: On seeing Louise Brooks as a Circus Performer in the 1928 Howard Hawks’ film A Girl in Every Port. Director G.W. Pabst tried to get Brooks on loan from Paramount Pictures. Pabst’s offer wasn’t even given to Brooks by the studio until she left Paramount over a Salary dispute. On not receiving Brooks for the role, Pabst’s second choice was Marlene Dietrich.
* Georg Wilhelm Pabst nearly signed Marlene Dietrich to star, although he greatly preferred Louise Brooks. According to Pabst, Dietrich was in his office waiting to sign the contract when a cable came from Paramount saying that Brooks was willing to play the role.
* Georg Wilhelm Pabst initially incurred a lot of wrath when he cast American Louise Brooks in the role of Lulu, a part which was considered to be quintessentially German. Ultimately Brooks’ performance silenced her critics.
* For the scene in which Lulu picks up and seduces Jack, Georg Wilhelm Pabst selected one of Louise Brooks’s own suits – her favorite – for Lulu’s costume and soiled, scuffed and rent it. Brooks claimed that, without spoken direction, Pabst thus established the desired effect of making her feel worn, cheap, and desperate, as the character of Lulu was intended to be portrayed.

* In her biography, Louise Brooks says she was physically attracted to Gustav Diessl, who played Jack the Ripper, and that made it easy for her to play her scenes with him.

* According to Louise Brooks’ memoir, “Lulu in Hollywood”, Alice Roberts was not aware her character was a lesbian until filming began, and she was initially opposed to playing the role as being attracted to Lulu. Georg Wilhelm Pabst, Brooks writes, convinced Roberts to pretend she was making her love gestures to Pabst, who was standing just off-camera.

* Louise Brooks’ highly influential “bob” hairdo is referred to as a Lulu to this day.

•    Fritz Kortner reportedly did not like or respect Louise Brooks, whom he didn’t consider a trained actress.
Memorable quotes:
Lulu: You’ll have to kill me to get rid of me.
Dr. Ludwig Schön: [to Alwa] Just one thing, my boy, beware of that woman.
Schigolch: You should only play when you’re sure to win.
Lulu: [referring to the Egyptian] He’s acting like he wants to buy me.
Marquis Casti-Piani: I need money badly and you have none to give me… The Egyptian will give me 50 more pounds than the German police… You’re in luck.
Alwa Schön: It’s strange how you can get booze on credit but not bread.
Lulu: MONEY! All they want is money!

In France, the film was edited making Alwa was Schon’s secretary and the countess became Lulu’s childhood friend. Lulu is found innocent in the film at her trial and there is no Jack the Ripper character as the film ended with Lulu joining the Salvation Army.

In Retro

The film was re-discovered in the 1950s by critics to great critical acclaim. Modern critics now praise the film as one of the classics of Weimar Germany’s cinema along with The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari, Metropolis, and The Blue Angel.

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(in German Die Freudlose Gasse)
Before I discuss the two films by GW Pabst let me put the film in proper context by briefly touching upon hyperinflation,  that existed in Weimar Republic.
Germany had to inflate its currency to pay the war reparations required under the Treaty of Versailles, but this didn’t cause hyperinflation. The German currency was relatively stable at about 60 Marks per US Dollar during the first half of 1921. But the “London ultimatum” in May 1921 demanded reparations in gold to be paid in annual installments of 2,000,000,000 gold marks plus 26 percent of the value of Germany’s exports. The first payment was paid when due in August 1921. That was the beginning of an increasingly rapid devaluation of the Mark which fell to less than one third of a cent by November 1921 (approx. 330 Marks per US Dollar). The total reparations demanded was 132,000,000,000 gold marks which was far more than the total German gold or foreign exchange. An attempt was made by Germany to buy foreign exchange, but that was paid in treasury bills and commercial debts for Marks, which only increased the speed of devaluation.

During the first half of 1922 the mark stabilized at about 320 Marks per Dollar accompanied by international reparations conferences including one in June 1922 organized by U.S. investment banker J. P. Morgan, Jr. When these meetings produced no workable solution, the inflation changed to hyperinflation and the Mark fell to 8000 Marks per Dollar by December 1922.
Although reparations accounted for about one third of the German deficit from 1920 to 1923,  the government found reparations a convenient scapegoat. Other scapegoats included bankers and speculators (particularly foreign), both of which groups had, in fact, exacerbated the hyperinflation through the normal course of their profit-seeking. The inflation reached its peak by November 1923, but ended when a new currency (the Rentenmark) was introduced.
A medal commemorating Germany’s 1923 hyperinflation. The engraving reads: “On 1st November 1923 1 pound of bread cost 3 billion, 1 pound of meat: 36 billions, 1 glass of beer: 4 billion.”(wikipedia)
“It’s strange how you can get booze on credit but not bread.”This quote is from Pandora’s Box(1929), which tersely encapsulates Germany’s Weimar Republic. The Joyless Street is also set during this tumultuous post-war Vienna. The city as Pabst saw was ‘a head that has no torso’. Plagued with skyrocketing inflation, the Austrian metropolis becomes the domain of every scurrilous form of profiteering. In such maledictory circumstances profiteers prosper.
In 1921 in the poverty-stricken part of town called Melchiorgasse in Austria inhabited by impoverished gentry and blue-collar workers, there are only two wealthy people: the butcher Josef Geiringer and his wife. Mrs. Greifer (literally her name means grasping) runs a fashion boutique and a nightclub patronized by the wealthier class of Vienna. Annexed to the nightclub is „Merkl“ hotel, a by-the-hour establishment, in which the women of the nightclub prostitute themselves in order to pay back their debts to Frau Greifer. The supporting characters include a poverty-stricken professor, his beleaguered daughter, an idealistic American Red Cross worker and a slinky harlot. Each character is photographed in a symbolic manner underlining his or her basic personality: the domineering butcher is photographed from a low angle, emphasizing his corrupt power, while the professor is lensed in long shot, highlighting the bareness of his apartment-and by extension, his life’.(Hal Erickson-allmovieguide.com)
Where despair rules can brothels be far behind? Every pfenning that a client put out was like thirty pieces of silver betraying some hopeless girl sunk low in  the economic mire.
The Joyless Street was the third film of Georg Wilhelm Pabst. The film is notable in the history of silent era film for a number of reasons. It made Greta Garbo an international star. Soon after this film was completed, Garbo was brought to the shores of the USA to star in films for MGM in Hollywood. It is also a film that marked the fame of Pabst as a creditable film-maker.
The film was directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst and it is one of many films  concerning the plight of women in German society. The other films are Geheimnisse einer Seele (1926) with Lili Damita, The Loves of Jeanne Ney (1927) with Brigitte Helm, Pandora’s Box (1929), and Diary of a Lost Girl (1929), the last two starring American actress Louise Brooks.
The Joyless Street tells the story of two women whose lives take different routes during the period of hyper-inflation in immediate post-war Vienna. One is the poverty stricken Marie (played by Asta Nielsen), who stumbles into prostitution while attempting to raise money for the man she loves. The other is Greta, the daughter of a struggling middle class bureaucrat, who resists the temptation of the easy money that prostitution offers.
At the end of the film, a sick and impoverished Else kills the butcher because he won’t give her any meat and the poor in the neighborhood, hearing the sounds from the nightclub, begin a stone-throwing revolt against the rich. In the ruckus, the building goes up in flames, killing a pair of beggars. In the end, only Grete seems to have any hope of someday rising out Melchiorgasse, because of her relationship with an American Red Cross officer.
Nielsen and Garbo

Asta Nielsen portrays Marie as a slightly “lost”, faded beauty, face caked with too much make-up and in love with the much younger Egon. Not fully comprehending what is happening to her, she drifts into prostitution to raise money for the man who shows no interest in her.
The role of Marie is played by the 35-year-old Nielsen was one of Scandinavia and Germany’s premier actresses and this was one of her last films while the other actress was the 20-year-old Garbo who had just made Stiller’s The Atonement of Gösta Berling (1924) and was on the brink of stardom. In rather fortuitous circumstances Pabst found Garbo and the director in Berlin and signed her up for the film.
Garbo plays the daughter of a bureaucrat who loses every penny of his pension on the stock market. The loss forces them, at first, to take in borders. Their first tenant is the son of a wealthy American in Germany to study. The elder of the two daughters and the young man fall in love at once. The affair is doomed, however, because the girl, seeing the harm their lessened social status causes the father and her sister, is forced into becoming a chanteuse in a brothel. She is saved from the fate of many of the other girls at the last minute.
Pabst drew a very different performance from Garbo to the one he garnered from Nielsen. Greta, the character, although placed in much the same situation as Marie – unable to obtain meat during a food shortage, in dire need of money, tempted by prostitution – is a younger, more privileged woman. Garbo’s performance, in contrast to Nielsen’s, imbues her character with great vitality… When the American officer agrees to rent a room so that the family will be capable of paying its living expenses, the pores of her body seem to pulsate with a contagious exhilaration. As Louise Brooks, another actress who was touched by Pabst’s genius, said of Garbo, “she gave him the purest performance of her career.”(quoted from by Michael Koller)

The war was over, defeat its German portion. The social changes were about to push the stolid mercantile class known as Kleinburger ever lower. Self-pity of this class one might see in films like The Last Laugh, New Year’s Eve and The Street. “Die Strasse” of brothels has been a favored milieu for German film makers. Pabst was ‘ the humanitarian, and not the “psychologist,” in the “freudlose GassGasse” (the street without Freud). His sensitiveness placed this picture of the stricken above…the more typical German directors: he was not moralistic. His Viennese origin substituted delicacy for delikatessen; he did not compound the pathos on the recipe of “Mehr! Mehr !“( “Pabst and the Social Film,” by Harry Potamkin, originally appeared in Hound and Horn in 1933)
The present film has a ring of truth and brilliance of a genius in the making all of which owe to his own experiences in post-war Vienna. It helped him to provide a vivid document in charting the moral and economic collapse of a recently great society. Pendant upon this are films like Pandora’s Box and The Blue Angel(1930). The cabaret in which Lola Lola had men panting for more, in this film has a  brothel instead. The madam also controls the adjoining night-club and clothes shop. Who keeps her in business? The needy and the curious obviously. Among the latter are the military officials of the American Relief Fund, as well as a sleazy foreign investor who visit the night-club to experience what Viennese women are ‘really’ like.  The economic collapse has taken the kid gloves off from the wealthy and they are shown as grasping as ever. They feed on those less fortunate than themselves. If the madam should be as grasping it comes as no surprise. For every prospering madam there shall be those who have given up the will to succeed. Marie is one such. Her love for Egon merely is one way street and he is more interested in two other women; an older one who supplies him with the means to raise money and the younger Regina, the woman he truly loves, who wants it. Regina tells her suitor, Egon, that only money can make her happy. And she is happy for him to prostitute himself to get money for her. Love as you can see still makes the world go round even in such desperate times.
When completed the film was ten thousand feet in length…. France accepted the film, deleting two thousand feet and every shot of the ‘street’ itself. Vienna extracted all sequences in which Werner Krauss appeared as the butcher. Russia turned the American Lieutenant into a doctor and made the butcher the murderer instead of the girl.
(Ack:allmovieguide,senses of cinema-Michael Koller, June 2004)
With: Asta Nielsen, Werner Krauss, Jaro Furth, Einak Hanson, and Veleska. Gert.
Notes: Script by Willy Haas from a book by Hugo Bettauer. Cinematography by Guido Seeber and Robert Lach.
Original running time: 145 mins
(Original length: 12,264 ft.) Premiered 18 May 1925 in Berlin, Germany. / Standard 35mm spherical 1.37:1 format. / Asta Nielsen’s character was edited out of early USA release prints. Rereleased in 1937 with synchronized music and sound effects as The Street of Sorrow. The film was restored by the Munich Filmmuseum in 1999.

Survival Status: Print exists in the Munich Filmmuseum film archive; also in private film collections [16mm reduction positive].

* The name “Frau Greifer” literally means “Mrs. Grabber”, a metaphor for the stranglehold that poverty and prostitution have on women who fall into that way of life.
* The actress playing Elsa is Hertha von Walther (1903-1987), who looks very much like Marlene Dietrich, giving rise to the false rumor that Dietrich has a bit part in this film.

Similar Movies
Les Bas-Fonds  (1936, Jean Renoir)
The Lower Depths  (1957, Akira Kurosawa)
Na Dne  (1952, Andrey Frolov)
Austeria  (1983, Jerzy Kawalerowicz)
Movies with the Same Personnel
Ninotchka  (1939, Ernst Lubitsch)
Diary of a Lost Girl  (1929, G.W. Pabst)
Geheimnisse einer Seele  (1925, G.W. Pabst)
Westfront 1918  (1930, G.W. Pabst)
Paracelsus  (1943, G.W. Pabst)
Romance  (1930, Clarence Brown)
Inspiration  (1931, Clarence Brown)
Don Quixote  (1933, G.W. Pabst)

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