Empress Marlene

I’m not really sure if I can handle how much I love The Scarlet Empress, which I wrote about over at Movie Mezzanine. I love how the film spits venom all over Russian royalty and has so much fun doing it. I love von Sternberg’s weird visual strategies; how the director coils Marlene Dietrich’s screen image around his fingers. And most of all I love Dietrich’s performance, composed of light and translucent fabric, with a face that calcifies from a virgin’s awe into power-mad maturity. The supporting players—sexy John Lodge, shrewish Louise Dresser, daffy Sam Jaffe—all get scenes to steal, but Marlene is the star (the fetish object) here. And my, does she light up Moscow’s night sky.

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