Lulu is a beautiful young woman who can seemingly work her charms on all of the men around her. She is currently being kept by the rich editor Dr. Ludwig Schön. She is just a plaything however and he is engaged to be married to Charlotte, a woman of his own class. He arranges for Lulu to appear in his son Alwa's musical revue and he too falls for all of her charms. When Dr. Schön and his fiancée go to the theater, Lulu ensures that he is put in a compromising situation and the elder Schön feels he now must marry her, knowing full well it will ruin his reputation. On his wedding day, Dr. Schön reaches his breaking point. His actions cost him his life however and Lulu is convicted of manslaughter. She escapes with the help of her old cronies but together they begin a downward spiral. Written by
Of all the silent dramas of the '20s, perhaps none is as compelling and inherently watchable as "Pandora's Box" of 1928. Amazingly, despite its age and completely different cinematic conventions, this G.W. Pabst picture continues to influence filmmakers worldwide. Made in Weimar Germany, it stars Louise Brooks, an American actress now considered the quintessential symbol of the flapper era. If not for her presence, the film would probably never have its incredible durability and cult status. She is the inspiration for Quentin Tarantino's Mia Wallace in both personality and sheer appearance. For the source of that chic haircut, look no further than Lulu, the proto-"femme fatale" played by Brooks. In a plot that could have come right out of a modern daytime talk show, she manages to destroy the lives of virtually everyone who loves her. Lulu (an aspiring actress), is simultaneously involved with Dr. Schoen (a prominent, high-society man) and his son, while being pursued by a lesbian admirer. To make matters worse, she is "supervised" by a rather disgusting, shady, pimp-like creature impersonating her father. And that's only the beginning. The girl's circumstances become even more bizarre as the action progresses. Obviously, given such a juicy storyline, the audience could well have been treated with a dose of laughable high camp. But Pabst, through brilliant cinematography (and, incidentally, silence), manages to retain dignity and generate powerful emotions as opposed to sarcasm and mild amusement. Precisely because the characters do not speak, we have an opportunity to witness their expressions and gestures. The camera spends much time on Brooks' face, showing the wide range of her emotions: from playfulness to rebellion to despair and back again. That face is one of the most versatile (not to mention the most beautiful) in the history of cinema. At the conclusion of the film's best scene-- as Dr. Schoen's fiancee catches him red handed in Lulu's dressing room-- her competitor slowly dismounts him with a momentary smirk full of hurt and disdain, yet somehow ballsy and triumphant. Such precious and sophisticated details make "Pandora's Box" a masterpiece. The title itself is mentioned in an inevitable courtroom scene midway through the story, by a prosecutor who crudely accuses the girl of being the root of all evil. This is where the film's sociological implications make it stand out from many of its contempories. Louise does not portray a conniving temptress. On the contrary, the people around her fall prey to their inhibitions, delusions and obsessions. Essentially, she is only an indirect cause of their demise and never fully responsible. Lulu's representation as a victim of nothing but her own zest for love and life in a stagnant, repressive society, is an example of humanist cinema at its finest. Brooks' personal life was no less turbulent than her character's: after a potentially prosperous career and scores of lovers (from Chaplin to Pabst himself), she quit the business, refusing to cooperate with its humiliating limitations and rigid standards. Fortunately for us, her name has been immortalized in an impeccable movie.
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