Der Blaue Engel (The Blue Angel) Reviews
Emil Jennings plays college professor Immanuel Rath, who find his students in possession of postcards of a sexy cabaret singer. He goes to the club, called the Blue Angel, to confront the woman, named Lola Lola, about her effects on his students. Unfortunately, he falls head over heels for her himself, and his obsession leads to the loss of his career and eventually, his dignity.
It starts comedic at first, with Rath collecting the student's postcards in class, and then later chasing them through the club. But as it goes on Rath loses more and more of his self-worth. When he finally can take no more, being utterly humiliated in front of his hometown, and snaps, it's terrifying to watch. Some of the more memorable scenes are the death of Rath's canary (really), Lola's songs, and the last shot of the film --which I will not give away here -- has stuck with me since I first saw it years and years ago.
One of Marlene Dietrich's first films, she is not the glamour ice goddess of her future -- no severe lighting, no cheekbones, no slinky dresses. She plays Lola as much more earthy and blatantly sexual.. Lola knows her appeal to men and is basically a cocktease. I stil haven't decided if Lola means from the beginning to treat Rath as badly as she does, if she doesn't know any better or just doesn't care.
One interesting thing about this film is seeing what was considered sexy and racy in pre-Hitler Germany. Lola's costumes are very revealing and yet really show nothing, except her undies. One postcard has a photo of Lola with a grass skirt attached to the card that can be blown up to show her stockings and garters. The young men in Rath's class get great entertainment by this activity. It seems so innocent now in this age of teen girls dressing like streetwalkers and thong bathing suits on every beach. Kinda sad really how jaded we've become as a society.
I loved it!! The German style cinematography and art decoration. The style that would be lost in Germany and taken to Hollywood when Hitler came to power. This movie takes place from 1925 to 1929 before the Nazis took over. It is a closer to real life look at the same time and culture that Cabaret portrays.
Emil Jannings was the first actor honored with the best actor Academy Award. I have only seen one other performance of his. But it was impressive and so was this role. Dietrich is seductive and husky voiced as Lola, but younger and not as husky voiced as she was in Witness for the Prosecution. The staff at the burlesque club Der Blaue Engel is like a family. Jannings is a professor at a local University and the dynamics of his classroom show that nothing much has changed. Three of his students are regulars at The Blue Angel. Professor Immanuel Rath is the picture of repression and routine. He tries so hard to keep the young men in his class in line and goes himself to the club to kick them out. He is so out of his element at the club and interacting with Lola. These early scenes have a lot of humor. Through chance circumstances he must return to the club and he ends up acting the part of a knight coming to the rescue of the lady's honor, at least the honor he imagines Lola has. Ultimately it is a tragic story, as Rath never finds his backbone and loves/trusts Lola too innocently. He falls into the "family" business, at first selling pinup postcards of his new wife, then inheriting the degrading clown assistant position for the magician/manager.
The dialog as translated in the subtitles surprised me with its natural flow and sophistication. The dialog strongly reveals the attitude of the culture before restrictions, whether from Germany or Hollywood, limited how sexuality particularly could be shown or mentioned in the movies.
The characters were very, very interesting. Lola Lola was hot and so was her attitude. Great performance by her, for sure, but the professor was truly outstanding. The range of emotions his character went through was so expansive, and so excellently portrayed. Great performances all around.
The story was good, absolutely. Interesting, sexy, exciting, scary, tragic, and imperfect, of course. One thing I'm still adjusting to with watching old films is how insanely fast people fall in love??? It's like they have one good exchange and then they're embracing each other, grasping each other's biceps firmly with this abrupt burst of passion and commitment, touching noses. No one falls in love that fast. I don't know if their standards were different in real life back then or if they just hadn't worked out how to tell a story where love grows gradually instead of shooting up into the sky. It felt a little bit like lazy story-telling, but only on the romance level. The rest of it had normal pacing, for the most part. It had its slow, boring moments, but it wasn't too bad. I guess the pacing was kinda weird, rather uneven. The professor's change in character was gradual, foreshadowed, and it made sense- but other developments I found were much too abrupt, without explanation.
Anyway, I liked this film a lot. I do recommend it for a viewing. The conclusion was great, mildly disturbing. I wouldn't mind watching it again someday but I don't feel a need to include it in my collection anytime soon.
Bye love you