This is a story about the devastating effects of a man who lets his heart override his brain. A classic of German cinema, right up there with M and Metropolis, this one directed by Josef von Sternberg. If this film was nothing but the visuals -- sets, lighting, art direction -- it would have still knocked me out. But it is so much more than that.
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.