The Last Command Reviews
This is a tense drama about a Russian General who is betrayed by a Revolutionist & his wife & is humiliated & shamed, he then flees to California and begins work as an extra in Hollywood. He then begins a plan of revenge since the Revolutionary is now a Hollywood director.
This is wonderfully acted by Jannings & directed very well by Josef Von Stranberg who went on to do many great films in the sound era.
Jannings is amazing as a Russian general in the 1917 revolution, cousin to the Czar, who ends up living in shell-shocked destitution in 1928 Hollywood as a call-list extra. From the flop house where he hides in reclusive poverty, he receives a call one day to audition for the role of a Russian general in a new film production. The director (William Powell), an ex-patriot former revolutionist, recognizes him, casts him in the part and then, in an extended flashback that comprises the bulk of the narrative, we learn of the tragic history that took place more than a decade before. The general was a prideful man who loved Russia deeply, but he stands fully in the forceful current of the Bolshevik revolution, and is fated to be swept away, a victim of his own pride, and his feelings for a woman whom he happens to encounter from among the revolutionists. The story moves inexorably to a dramatic and tragic denouement, before moving back to the Hollywood studio, where In the heart-rending climax, he is urged on to his greatest and final performance.
Part of the success of the film is due to Evelyn Brent's smoldering performance as Janning's co-star. Her allure and passionate defiance as Natasha, the revolutionist he meets and seduces, matches the great man's willful passion scene by scene; her love will be the cause of his defeat and his redemption.
One of the strongest silents I have ever seen, the visuals of this film are especially impressive. Von Sternberg's sense of composition, framing and the use of light and shadow is unparalleled. Any still from this movie would be impressive displayed as a framed photograph. The DVD copy I saw had an excellent musical score composed for the film's latest release in a Criterion collection.
The whole film start with the Hollywood director Leo Andreiev (William Powell) who looks trough photographs of potential extras to play a czarist general, and he suddenly find a person that he actually know, who was in fact a czarist general in real life, Grand Duke Sergius Alexander (Emil Jannings). He gets the job, but when he tries to tell the other extras and even shows one of his medals they just laugh. Then we get to see flashbacks of his earlier life, as the pompous aristrocrat who only got the title "General" because he is one of the Csar's cousins. But there's a big resistance movement, and some of them is actually Andreiev, and his partner Natascha Dobrow (Evelyn Brent) whom Alexander decides to inprison them both, but he develops an interest for the beautiful Natascha whom also develops feeling for him as well. But the revolution what's it otherwise.
Emil Jannings character is actually based on the real life General Lodijensky who acted in many Hollywood films. Emil Jannings is simply one of the greatest actor that has ever walked on this earth. The most special thing about his acting is all his strong expressions of every kind of feeling, from anger, happiness, sorrow and shame. And there's no surprise that he does a great job in this film. But when it comes to the whole film in general it's rather a film that is not any different than most of the films of it's time, it's the same love story. It's uses to much time on the interrogations and all the fancy parties, which makes it a little slow, rather than show us the conditions where the people is being repressed, they are portrayed as thugs and hooligans, but then again it's Hollywood.
But I really did like the first part where we see the General's humiliation of being pushed around as an ordinary extra. Jannings was always good at this, making a real character we really can relate and feel sorry for, a man that has lost anything in the world. So my conclusion is that I really liked this movie because of Jannings' performance and the plot and the meta film themes. Thumbs up.