John, I suppose you’re right that Dietrich’s character had some genuine feeling for Rath initially. He was probably a different sort of character than the ones she was used to. At the wedding feast she does look at him with joviality, so there had to be something there. I guess I just read her more as a seductress than a legit lover. But I didn’t see her as entirely responsible for Rath’s ruin; he definitely forged his own path.
I forgot to ask, did you think there was any social commentary involved in the film? In the scene where Rath comes out on stage as the clown, the announcer makes it clear to the audience that this former professor and intellectual has debased himself and become consumed by this sort of bawdy underworld. Do think this was just one man’s downfall or a potential comment on a society moving away from intellectual endeavors towards sexual pleasure and base spectacle. It’s definitely possible to read the film in this way or in a way like it, but I was just wondering if you had any similar thoughts or if you completely disagree with this. That goes for anyone else who has seen the film too.
If the film is a comment on society in that way, then does it see itself as somewhat complicit in this? Is the film a spectacle too? haha I sound like one of my English professors. Just trying to stir up some debate.
John, you’ve seen more films around the time of this than me so I completely trust you on the sound of this film. Once I’ve seen more of the new talkies, I can probably do a better judgment of it compared to others. I’m sure you’re right though.
I’ve seen some other 30s pictures recently...
Wyler’s Dodsworth (1936) is one of the best I’ve seen in a while. It’s fantastic, heartbreaking, and very well done. It has a literate, well-written script with some absorbing character work and many entertaining scenes. The direction by Wyler is just spot-on. He keeps the film fluid and interesting and really lets us care about the characters. The film is so strongly developed. It basically follows the disintegration of a marriage while on a trip to Europe. Dodsworth is a newly retired automobile tycoon out to see the world and his wife is a quickly aging (but still young) woman looking for romance, adventure, and European sophistication. They grow apart pretty rapidly in the film, and it is terribly sad to see despite the film’s fairly lighthearted tone. There is one scene early in the film where Dodsworth is looking at a lighthouse flash from the shores of England and tries to get his wife to see it with him. It’s a very tragic scene that foreshadows the rest of the film. You can’t help but feel for poor Dodsworth in that moment. Great stuff.
Walter Huston gives a masterful performance as the title character. Ruth Chatterton is great as his superficial and naive wife (a pretty solid variation on Emma Bovary). Mary Astor is so lovely and a young David Niven is suave as hell. Terrific performances all around. This one will be high on my ’36 list.
Vigo’s Zero de Conduite (1933) is a much more whimsical and fanciful verison of Lindsay Anderson’s If....It has some neat camera work and some nice bits of absurdity. It’s pretty amusing.
The Adventures of Robin Hood is still awesome and so is King Kong. I’d love to make that showing this weekend. I don’t know if I can make it, but if I am around I will let y’all know.
I forgot to add Renoir's The Lower Depths to my '36 list. I definitely need to see that and may choose it as the next film to see.