Charles Farrell stars as the titular Liliom, a no-good 'barker', enticing people - especially pretty young ladies to ride the carousel at the fairground. Along come servant Julie (Rose Hobart) and her colleague Marie and, to cut a long story short, Lil' and Jules find themselves unemployed, drinking in a beer-garden. Thus begins a not quite beautiful relationship. Liliom, being an 'artist', has trouble turning provider and Auntie-in-(common)law is running out of patience for the loafer on the sofa. Furthermore, Lil's former employer/lover, the sultry carousel owner Louise, wants him to come back to the fair, and his 'friend', 'The Buzzard', is never far off with his easy-money schemes If you haven't had someone spoil the film for you, you're in for one hell of a surprise up ahead.
This is an early sound film and by jiminy it shows. The line readings are like children's TV you know, sort of wooden and VERY clearly pronounced just in case the wee ones are still learning to understand their native tongues. BUT this film should be enjoyed as a sort of fairy tale anyway, so that isn't quite the problem here that it might be in a more conventional drama. The characters all come across intensely as living souls here and I found myself deeply affected by them. Visually it's other worldly, German expressionist, with the lights of the seemingly omnipresent carnival twinkling through the night and beautiful use of lighting throughout, bringing out the delightful faces of the leads. Some have objected to the film's offensive, out-dated gender politics there's a possible reading that spousal abuse is fine if it was done for the right reasons; and that 'boys will be boys' and that's fine, even good! but this wasn't the way I chose to read it. For me this was far from a moral/message film; more like an unforgettable surrealist's dream. Later remade in 1934 by Fritz Lang, and then again in 1956 by Henry King, as Carousel. Highly recommended.
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