Prologue: The murderer "Boss" Huller - after having spent ten years in prison - breaks his silence to tell the warden his story. "Boss", a former trapeze artist, and his wife own a cheap ... See full summary »
Prologue: The murderer "Boss" Huller - after having spent ten years in prison - breaks his silence to tell the warden his story. "Boss", a former trapeze artist, and his wife own a cheap side-show that displays ''erotic sensations''. But he longs for his former glamorous life in the circus. When he meets the orphan Berta-Marie, he falls under her spell and leaves his wife and young son behind. He makes Berta-Marie his partner in a new trapeze number. One day, the famous trapeze artist Artinelli takes note of them and engages them for his trapeze show in Berlin. Their salto mortale becomes an immediate sensation. Calculatedly and cold, Artinelli seduces Berta-Marie and destroys "Boss'" happiness. Written by
Christian Taube <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Visually spectacular; Jannings' warm-up for "Blue Angel"
The print I saw recently did not contain the "prologue" mentioned above, which I assume was lifted from the novel on which the film was based. If it had been included in some form, it would have made several things clearer: 1) where "Boss" got his nickname; 2) why he was so much older than Berta-Marie; 3) why so much older (and less in-shape) a man would still be a trapeze artist; 4) why the couple seemed so puppyishly in love at the beginning, he to the point of slavishness; and 5) why "Boss" would be so jealous when Artinelli shows attentions to Berta.
None of this is absolutely necessary to enjoy the film, however, which has beautifully detailed performances and terrific camerawork by Karl Freund. The trapeze sequences will leave you giddy. The montages of variety acts are witty and vibrant. Berlin nightlife in the '20s looks glamorous. And Jannings surely has one of the classic silent-screen actors' faces, eloquently conveying a wide spectrum of emotions.
"Variete" was a sensation when it appeared, primarily for its camerawork. At the time, director EA Dupont took most of the kudos and seemed launched on a promising career. But he was tapped out after his next flick, the estimable "Picadilly," and in retrospect, Freund is the creative force whose part in "Variete" assumes a place in a major body of film work. That being said, Dupont's work with the actors here is outstanding and a key part of the film's success.
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