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The Blue Angel

By Eric Allen Hatch | Posted

The Josef von Sternberg 1930 classic is a film with dual citizenship, a landmark work with profound ramifications for both European and American film history. An uptight professor (Emil Jannings) spends an evening at a German cabaret, hoping to catch his students acting indiscreetly. There he becomes ensnared by singer Lola-Lola (Marlene Dietrich), beginning a slavish affection that will destroy his carefully constructed life. Befitting its subject matter, The Blue Angel began a series of mostly excellent collaborations between von Sternberg and Dietrich that, by relentlessly characterizing her as the deification of feminine sexuality, became almost maniacal in their obsessiveness. It's routinely cited by film-history texts as the first classic of the sound era, and its stylized depiction of fatalistic hedonism would influence many other directors, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Bob Fosse most obviously. Although his prior work experience was in the States, Vienna-born von Sternberg made this film for Germany's UFA, propelling almost everyone involved to international stardom. Both English- and German-language versions were shot simultaneously; this Saturday, the Charles will screen the German version, subtitled in English.

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