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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
For some reason, Cedric Gibbons art direction succeeds in the scenes that take place in Paris but notably fail when he has to deal with Argentina. The opening and closing scenes are so impressive that it is really a shame that MGM was so careless about how this film should look.
Written Vicente Blasco Ibáñez knew Argentina quite well and if most of the exteriors that take place there look like interiors. The villain as portrayed by Roy D'Arcy is ridiculous: he is ready to go to a carnival parade and does not remotely look menacing as probably Blasco Ibáñez described him on his book.
Even with those flaws, it is interesting to compare the story with the tangos that were composed in Argentina at the time.
Garbo's character is tragic figure and the men who would either die or kill for her are quite as pathetic as many people described in tangos.
With all of its flaws, this film is worth watching and perfectly reflect many clichés that were frequent in the Argentina of that time. The music score specially composed for TCM by Michael Picton was very good, although the results would have been much better adopting contemporary Argentinean folkloric music.
The alternate ending featured in DVD (obviously produced for Argentina unlike what Mark A. Vieira states on the audio commentary, since this films was probably one of the firsts that MGM distributed there) is more satisfying than the melodramatic finale of the original version.
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