Pandora's Box (original title: Buechse der Pandora, Die)

"Movie Magazine International" Review

(Air Date: Week Of 5/3/95)

By Monica Sullivan

Hearing a new silent film score from the Clubfoot Orchestra is often like seeing those vintage movies for the first time. Clubfoot scores have added an entire dimension to films like "Sherlock, JR." and "Metropolis" and I'd love to hear how the orchestra interprets "The Lost World" or G. W. Pabst's "Joyless Street". Their latest score is for Pabst's "Pandora's Box" starring the late great Louise Brooks as Lulu and Frances Lederer, still alive and well at 88, 67 years after he co-starred opposite Brooks as Alva Shon.

In 1925's "Joyless Street", Pabst revealed a Germany of harsh extremes: decadent jazz clubs near food lines, where people wait hours at a time for a piece of the butcher's meat. Innocent Lulu lives in the ugly world of 1929, but she can not understand how she unwittingly contributes to that world. She loves guys of all sizes, shapes and ages except that sometimes they get mad at her and turn on her and then she gets into a whale of a lot of trouble.

Like Dr. Ludwig Schon starts acting like he's too good for her once he gets engaged to another woman. And then he shows up with the other woman at Lulu's revue on opening night, what girl wouldn't get mad and refuse to go on with the show until she'd gotten even. And then, after she's worked the angles so that Dr. Schon had to marry her, it wasn't her fault if he got mad at her for flirting with a countess or for fooling around with her old pals before her wedding night. The world believes that Lulu is a femme fatale, dragging every man down to her level, but she is her own greatest victim, representing too much to too many.

Like every great director, Pabst exploited the actor's feelings towards each to their onscreen advantage. He seduced a striking lesbian performance out of Alice Roberts as the Countess, he used Brooks' attraction to Gustav Diessl as Jack The Ripper to inject poignance into their brief but vivid moments together. And Fritz Kortner's real-life dislike of Brooks was ideal for Dr. Schon's obsessive hatred of Lulu. In her beautifully written reminiscences of working with Pabst, Brooks frankly admits that she never thought of herself as much of an actress. But her flickering image remains powerful today. And "Pandora's Box " yields a legion of treasures for first-time viewers and from long-time admirers who've memorised every frame of Pabst's masterpiece.

Copyright 1995 Monica Sullivan

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