Der blaue Engel (1930)
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There's a strong bird motif set up early in The Blue Angel - birds in a cage stop singing and die, and all that - but the twist is that Marlene Dietrich's burlesque singer isn't the bird in question. Rather, it's the stuffy moralistic professor who falls for her. As we track his degradation and loss of dignity, he will be forced to play the chicken for the cabaret players as well. Dietrich's character is mercurial and cruel, and perhaps a little unknowable. We're squarely with Emil Jannings' Professor Rath, but he's not necessarily sympathetic. Only in the way that fools are. What's the message? That show folk are a dangerous lot? That the women you are warned away from really are a menace to morals, enlightenment and the Patriarchy? Or should we go deeper to see Rath's foolishness for what it is - hubris. The Blue Angel is a tragedy in the classical sense where one man's self-importance, perhaps his notion that he can "save" the woman he loves, or that he can resist the corruptive influence of the world she lives in, is what draws him into the abyss. You can tell this is an early sound film because it tries to use sound to it advantage. I don't think the musical numbers are well served by the recording technology of the day, but the demented bird cries of the climax are well worth it.
It was good to see a very old movie with this kind of quality.
But you should be in the correct mood to see this. Take your time.
Reminded me of Der Letzte Mann a bit. Tragic but powerful.
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In 16 official lists
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This movie ranks #4 in Stanley Kubrick, Cinephile
This movie ranks #7 in Kinemathekverbund's The 100 Most Important German Films
This movie ranks #8 in Taschen's 100 All-Time Favorite Movies
This movie ranks #44 in IMDb's Music Top 50
This movie ranks #51 in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
This movie ranks #68 in BFI's 360 Classic Feature Films Project
This movie ranks #73 in Amos Vogel's Film as a Subversive Art
This movie ranks #79 in Harvard's Suggested Film Viewing: Narrative Films
This movie ranks #89 in David Thomson's Have You Seen?
This movie ranks #102 in Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Cinema
This movie ranks #108 in The Guardian's 1000 Films to See Before You Die
This movie ranks #112 in Time Out's 1000 Films to Change Your Life
This movie ranks #130 in Halliwell's Top 1000: The Ultimate Movie Countdown
This movie ranks #180 in Eureka!'s The Masters of Cinema Series
This movie ranks #267 in UNESCO's Memory of the World
This movie ranks #665 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films