Language: English, French
Genre: Romance, Drama
Director: Josef von Sternberg
Writer: Jules Furthman
from the play “Amy Jolly” by Benno Vigny
Music: Karl Hajos
Cinematography: Lee Garmes, Lucien Ballard
The sole reason for me to watch this black and white classic is Marlene Dietrich, courtesy of the fact that it gave her the one and only Oscar-nomination in her entire career. And it is a delight to find out Gary Cooper is her co-star (gosh he is really at his prime, particularly in his army uniform), and the director at helm is Josef von Sternberg, Ms. Dietrich’s long-time collaborator, no wonder even the heartthrob Cooper does not stand any chance to steal her thunder (so is a very underused Adolphe Menjou).
Truly, this film is all about Marlene, her neutral sexuality is exuding all over the screen with the top hat and the tuxedo when she renders her mesmeric performance as the chanteuse in the cabaret (not to mention the notorious girl-girl kiss scene, it must be a sensational topic at that time, it was 1930!). At the same time her quaint flair as a woman trapped in love but too proud to admit it in front of her beloved man has its momentum to propel the film with its uneven plot. I may be too harsh, the film is made 82 years ago, in the wake of talkie era, so I readjust my original rating from 4 to 5.
The patchwork of its very much run-of-the-mill script and camera movements (there are some rather frivolous shots of battle scenes which might fall into the laughingstock notch) are pretty much dated and ruefully, Ms. Dietrich cannot single-handedly save the film (her then English accent is still a bit grating, hope I’m not the only one to say that), the entire film doesn’t sell the story in a fully credible structure, many details are being sidelined while the sentimentality is lingering on and on, or perhaps it is just another film fails to connect with when time mercilessly passes by. But last but not the least, its classic way of sending the “dare to love” message is warm and encourage, the final bravura of pursuing her lover in the march has its own merit in that time, if I may divine.