Saturday, April 28, 2012

Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora's Box) (1929)

Seen: On dvd (Criterion) on our big screen/projector set-up, rented from Hollywood Express.

Well, Louise Brooks looks like a cool lady, and I'm always seeing her around Pussy Goes Grrr so Pandora's Box was an easy choice for a Sunday break from writing papers. Brooks stars as Lulu, an aspiring dancer who marries a well-known newspaper publisher despite his misgivings about her seedy background. Their wedding night is laced with drama and everything goes downhill from there. People dying, gambling, poverty, prostitution, etc. Not sure how spoilery I should be?

With her iconic bob haircut and general flapper effusiveness, Louise Brooks doesn't steal the show, she is the show. She radiates equal parts unguarded sexuality and bubbly sweetness, prancing about in awesome outfits and seemingly passionate about everything. Those around her fall easily under spell, and it is unclear how aware she is of the effect she has. At times she is conniving and manipulative, at others she is fragile and well-meaning. This dual nature makes for a fascinating and confusing character, propelling the film forward despite a somewhat weepy, meandering script. Lulu's relationships are interesting but the story is too episodic to be fully compelling as a whole.

One of the most interesting components of Pandora's Box was the Countess Geschwitz (Alice Roberts), one of the only "reputable" people in Lulu's circle. She totally has a thing for Lulu, and it is not subtle, and I think she was the most sympathetic of any character. She sees how Lulu flirts with various men and knows she wouldn't have a chance, but lights up whenever they're together. She helps her out of scrapes, clinging to some hope that Lulu might return her feelings. It's pretty tragic, actually, since no one is really to blame. Their dancing scene is pretty hot, though, right? Also according to imdb she is considered to be the first lesbian character portrayed on screen, is that true?

Just a note: I started watching this with the classical orchestral-style score, but it didn't feel suited to the mood of the film so I switched to the modern classical one, which I liked better. Not sure how strongly the four soundtrack choices affect the overall tone, but I'm sure it made some difference.


Pair This Movie With: Hmm, not sure. I know Pabst's other main film with Louise Brooks is Diary of a Lost Girl but I haven't seen it so I don't know if it's good.


  1. Great review as always.

    I loved this one (even saw Joanne Whalley-Kilmer do it on stage a couple of decades ago).

    You've just reminded me I've never seen Diary Of A Lost Girl either. I'll have to remedy that.


  2. Thanks! Yeah I definitely want to check out DIARY OF A LOST GIRL now, and just more Louise Brooks in general!

  3. Yeah Diary of a Lost Girl is the best Louise Brooks film. This film is actually a distant second place for me. But, Lost Girl is one of my favorites of that era.