Louise in the UK: Observer 20 May 2007
- Philip French
Sunday May 20, 2007
1929, PG, Second Sight
Diary of a Lost Girl
1929, PG, Eureka
Both directed by GW Pabst
Louise Brooks (1906-1985), an alluring, vivacious girl from small-town
Kansas, was a dancer, actress and writer who enchanted everyone she met
(her lovers ranged from Chaplin to broadcasting magnate William S Paley,
founder of the CBS network), most male characters in the films in which
she appeared and audiences the world over.
At the height of her early movie career, she turned her back on
Hollywood to make two of the last great silent movies in Europe and
returned to California to find she'd been rejected by the major studios.
After several years making B-movies, she became a recluse at the age of
Those films she made in Berlin, directed by GW Pabst, one of Germany's
great film-makers, have ensured her immortality. They made her the peer
of Garbo, whose film, The Joyless Street, was directed by Pabst. The
dark bobbed hair, the perfect complexion, the infinitely expressive
face, the graceful movement have made her a much-imitated, though
ultimately inimitable, icon, a figure both strong and vulnerable,
innocent and experienced, earthily erotic and divinely ethereal.
These great films reflect the corruption of the Weimar Republic before
the Nazi takeover and are concerned with power, sexuality, exploitation,
social and emotional repression and hypocrisy, and each describes a
dramatic arc in the lives of their heroines.
In the better one, Pandora's Box, Brooks plays a wilful femme fatale who
unthinkingly destroys the lives of a series of besotted males before
herself falling victim to Jack the Ripper in London. In Diary of a Lost
Girl, based on a popular novel, she plays the 16-year-old daughter of a
pharmacist, seduced by her father's assistant, forced by the family to
give up her baby and committed to an appallingly regimented reformatory.
She escapes to become the major attraction of a fashionable brothel,
which proves a liberating experience.
The movie concludes with an upbeat ending in which she turns upon the
self-deceiving upholders of bourgeois morality. These films represent
the silent cinema at its subtlest, most fluent and mature. Brooks's
memoir Lulu in Hollywood is marvellous.
scroll down to Film and television and click on DVD club: Pandora's Box,
Diary of a Lost Girl as direct link doesn't work
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