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In spite of what many common people believe, Germans and Austrians are not the same (leaving aside some dubious political unification); certainly many times it is very difficult to distinguish between a Prussian and a Viennese. However, the most telling difference that irremediably separates both is this: Austrians drink coffee and Germans drink beer.
Having in mind such important and transcendental facts, the film "Café Elektric" (1927) will then be comprehensible for any silent audience. The picture was directed by Herr Gustav Ucicky, one of the most important and versatile Austrian film pioneers, and depicts a trilateral and troublesome relationship connected in different ways and with Vienna as the background.
Frau Erni Göttlinger ( Frau Marlene Dietrich ) is a spoiled rich girl, daughter of a very important construction entrepreneur ( Herr Fritz Alberti ) and she becomes terribly attracted to a pickpocket, Herr Fredl ( Herr Willi Forst ). Herr Max Stöger ( Herr Igo Sym ) is a young engineer who works for Herr Göttlinger who does not focus exclusively on his construction business when a young fräulein ( Frau Anny Cotti ) is around. Meanwhile, Frau Hansi ( Frau Nina Vanna ), an old friend of Herr Fredl, enjoys the Vienna night life though not in the same way as Frau Paula, a prostitute ( Vera Salvotti ).
For many silent film connoisseurs, this film is a special one due to the fact that Frau Marlene Dietrich-in her pre icon days- is in it, but her part is unremarkable and less striking in comparison to Frau Nina Vanna as Hansi und Frau Vera Salvotti, whose performance as a not so young streetwalker who knows the years are catching up with her, is especially effective.
In the male roles, Herr Willy Forst has probably the most clichéd one, performing the quintessential man without a heart who exploits women for money ( hmmm this Herr Graf can hear the bells ). More interesting is Herr Fritz Alberti as Herr Göttlinger, a more subtle wicked character, an old man who enjoys seducing bad young girls (those bells are ringing again) perhaps not unlike his foolish daughter.
In the background is the "Café Elektric", a nightclub in Austrian parameters and which has nothing in common with the Germans cabarets, natürlich!!... The atmosphere is wicked and shapes the evolution and personal circumstances of the characters. Herr Ucicky does particularly well with these indoor nightlife scenes but of course includes charming exteriors of Vienna as well.
Although the last part of the film is lost (some title cards explains the missing scenes) what remains is certainly very interesting and attractive, a combination of fiction and hyperrealism, the kind of picture that this Herr Graf likes so much.
And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must drink a decaffeinated coffee with some drops of whiskey.
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