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Georg Wilhelm Pabst
In a masked ball in Paris, Manuel Robledo, a young Argentinian architect, meets Elena, the Marquess of Torre Blanca. Later, the young woman is rightly accused causing the misfortune and loss of wealth of Fontenoy, a man who fell for her charms. To escape social criticism, the Marquis of Torre Blanca transfers his residence to Argentina. There, Elena meets again Manuel, when he is building a river's dam. Manos Duras, a thug, harasses Elena, and when Manuel intervenes, he defies him to a whip duel. The duel is long and vicious, both men suffering many cuts on their faces and naked chests, but in the end, the thug is vanquished and humiliated. Manos Duras sets up an ambush to murder Manuel, but the Marquis of Torre Blanca is killed instead. Now, there only two men in love for Elena, the eternal temptress^Å Written by
Overlong curio of man-destroying seductress - Garbo's second film
At 117 minutes this is way too long and ought to have been cut by half an hour. It was Garbo's second MGM film, and like the first, was derived from an Ibanez novel. Ibanez, as a source, proved beneficial for Valentino (THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APPOCALYPSE), but not for Garbo. For most of the film, she just stands around and does what she is good at, enticing men to make fools of themselves over her - and wouldn't you know it, they then blame her! Her weakling husband sells her to a banker, who ruins himself for her and commits suicide. The husband is shot by a bandit. Two friends of the main character vie for her and one kills the other. Our hero keeps vascillating, he loves her but hates her for ruining men's lives.
She, like most women of her type, lived as best they could - in a man's world, a plaything, she survived as a courtesan, securing jewelry for her support. Yes, she is weak, but she is not to blame.
The second half of the film is set in the Argentine where our hero has gone to build a dam, which the villain blows up, but which our hero rebuilds.
Garbo does have one stunning outfit - a slinky black thing, edged in white ermine with an orchid pinned over her right breast.
Garbo DOES get to act but only in the last sequence. Back in Paris, a successful architect, Antonio Moreno encounters the fallen Garbo, who drunkenly does not remember him -"I meet so many men." It is of course a lie, but one to make him forget her. Mistaking a fellow drunk for Christ, she gives him a ruby and wanders off into the sunset. Garbo is quite fine in this sequence but it is the only thing of value in the film, which is turgidly and boringly directed by her mentor, Mauritz Stiller (who was fired from the project part way through) and Fred Niblo (who completed it and got sole credit).
The cinematography contains two interesting silhouette shots, an amusing "under the table" sequence at a dinner party where men and women's legs and feet engage in some risque flirting - and the ubiquitous MGM long banquet table tracking shot (we'll see it again in ANNA KARENINA, not to mention a number of other MGM films.)
This one plays on Turner Classic Movies occasionally and is worth catching for Garbo alone. It has never been released commercially on video (one of only three Garbo silents which have not - we wonder why).
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