Marlene (1984)

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The fifth directorial effort of German film star Maximillian Schell, Marlene is an unorthodox documentary of the legendary Marlene Dietrich. After years of resisting Schell's entreaties, Dietrich finally agreed to participate in this project-but refused to appear on camera. Thus, a tape recording of a Dietrich-Schell interview is heard throughout, while the screen is filled with images of Marlene culled from stills, dramatic films (The Blue Angel, Shanghai Express et. al.) and newsreel footage. Still far from cooperative, Dietrich ignores Schell's questions, preferring to spin her own version of the Marlene mystique. Despite her efforts at self-protection, we are left with a fuller and more honest portrait of the actress than might have been possible in a traditional question-and-answer format. Originally released in Europe in 1984, Marlene was given its first wide American distribution in 1987.

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Critic Reviews for Marlene

All Critics (6) | Top Critics (1)

A shrewd summa of stardom and late-life legend-burnishing, wearily but no less admiringly acknowledging its irascible subject's perverse genius

May 31, 2017 | Full Review…

I think we learn much more about Dietrich than we would have if she had submitted to the usual paint-by-numbers, fawning Biography Channel type of film.

Oct 26, 2009 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

The result is a fascinating document, not only of the star herself, but also of the documentary as personal process.

Oct 10, 2009 | Full Review…

The bilingual parrying between the withholding diva and her frustrated chronicler often seems like Sunset Boulevard re-imagined as a radio play, with sex removed from the equation but marlenus interruptus aplenty.

Oct 5, 2009 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Schell uses the limiting conditions-Dietrich did't let him photograph her-to an advantage, resulting in a revelatory work that's more interesting because of the combative relationship with his subject, a star wishing to keep control to the bitter end

Aug 13, 2007 | Rating: A- | Full Review…

At once enigmatic, deliberately obfuscating in nature and extremely revealing.

Aug 18, 2005 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

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