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Ponderous epic of Louis' XV' mistress- her rise and fall
Like Norma Shearer's MARIE ANTOINETTE almost twenty years later, this is an attempt to tell a rags to riches tale set in the last years of the French aristocracy. We see Jeanne rise from milliner to mistress of all who would have her, finally married to her protector's brother so she could become the king's favorite. Negri and Jannings do well as Du Barry and Louis XV but this is no intimate drama so it lacks character development and depth. Jeanne, it seems, is ever faithful to her first love, the student, Armand, and looks out for him unbeknownst of course, only to be shamed when he learns who his benefactress really is. So like a man!
Negri is early in her career and far from the subtle actress she would later become. She is so heavily made up that she is often rather grotesque. Jannings always pulls off a characterization with professional aplomb but here he has little to do until his death scene, where he pulls out the stops. There is a lot of posturing and it tries quite well to give us a history lesson - although it succeeds, it is dullsville along the way.
The lavish and elaborate art direction is worthy of award consideration. Don't seek this out unless you are a fan of the two leads, the director or the subject matter.
Note: that same year Lubitsch would "go mad" and find his niche with the delightfully funnny OYSTER PRINCESS. While that film is also worthy of art direction honors, it is Lubitsch's marvelous directorial touches that deserve as high a consideration.
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