Starring: Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner, Franz Lederer, Alice Roberts
Director: Georg Willhelm Pabst
Distributor: Umbrella World Cinema DVD
A silent film can speak a thousand words simply with looks, gestures and appropriate musical accompaniment. In German director Georg Willhelm Pabst’s 1929 black and white masterpiece based on Frank Wedekind’s stage play, not a single word is spoken but we experience every emotion as it passes across the face of each fascinating character. The sparklingly cheeky eyes of American leading lady Louise Brooks speak volumes about her character’s personality and reveal why every man around her falls hopelessly at her feet. Lulu is like a kitten; playful, wilful and utterly adorable with her shiny jet black trademark bob framing her timeless face. Even when throwing a mega tantrum as she does backstage before her performance in a music hall variety show, she proves totally irresistible. And it’s precisely this allure that drives men mental… and women too.
Belgian actress Alice Roberts embodies the Countess Gerschwitz, a glamorous butch costume designer who dresses Lulu in highly theatrical frocks and watches with mounting jealously as she embarks on her different heterosexual liaisons – the scene at Lulu’s wedding when the Countess dances the tango with her is nothing short of iconic and the film has achieved cult status among Sapphic buffs for bringing us the first overtly lesbian character.
But if looks could really kill, the ones that Lulu’s rich sugar daddy-turned-husband gives her would strike her down in an instant. Fritz Kortner is the monocle-wearing actor behind them, clenching his fist in rage whenever the life force that he is trying to tame proves uncontrollable. When Lulu is dragged before the court accused of his murder, the prosecutor sees not a persecuted innocent but Pandora herself – the woman that the Greek gods created and bestowed with a box containing all the evils of the world. Forced to flee into the hands of white slave traders and eventually a serial killer, Lulu is, in the end, the victim of a man who wants to taste Christmas pudding one last time. It’s a shockingly tragic and surprisingly modern tale that still bedazzles nearly 80 years on.