The Foreign Legion marches in to Mogador with booze and women in mind just as singer Amy Jolly arrives from Paris to work at Lo Tinto's cabaret. That night, insouciant legionnaire Tom Brown catches her inimitably seductive, tuxedo-clad act. Both bruised by their past lives, the two edge cautiously into a no-strings relationship while being pursued by others. But Tom must leave on a perilous mission: is it too late for them? Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Tom, I must see you tonight.
See me tonight? What if your husband sees you tonight?
He isn't going to see me...
Isn't he? What if he does?
[Coyly, quoting a classic line from the time of Julius Caesar]
Caesar's wife is above suspicion.
Yeah? You may know something about ancient history, but I know something about husbands.
[Gives her a little salute and walks off]
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Of course Morocco has dated - mostly in its scripting, yet if one is willing to fantasize a little, to place oneself in a 1930 sensibility, the film works brilliantly. Even without taking that delicious mindstep Morocco is a delectable cinema classic, even if it isn't the finest of the Sternberg-Dietrich collaborations.
That hot kiss the white-tie-and-tails-clad Dietrich plants on the lips of a woman seated, helplessly, at a cabaret table is still breathtaking. Seeing that kiss still sizzle nowadays makes one wonder why so much hubbub ensued after 2003's gratuitous, lackluster liplock shared by Madonna and Britney Spears (which, as it made me yawn also made me think of Madeline Kahn's Dietrich-parodying Lilli von Shtupp dismissing Hedley Lamar's bouquet offering: "Oh. How odinawy."). Moreover, Dietrich's Amy Jolly deliberately ignores the luststruck man who handed a flower to her following her cabaret act, and instead humiliates him by kissing his startled, but not at all displeased - and rather persuaded to complaisance, date. No penis envy nonsense here: its all Marlene being woman almighty flexing woman's timeless power.
One ought not, as one amateur reviewer has, to judge myopically this film by today's anal PC standards by dint of sanctimonious judgments about colonialism - and by taking a badly mistaken swipe at Gary Cooper's character speaking American English instead of affecting a French accent when, in fact, Cooper was playing an American in the Foreign Legion (did the character's name, Tom Brown, not clue that reviewer to Brown's nationality?); further, the uniform of enlisted legionnaires wasn't tailored to fit handsomely - it was made mostly of coarse wool and issued "as-is," quite often ill-fitting, to men who volunteered for arduous service. Instead one ought to see Morocco's characters for what they are: broadly-painted archetypes of white colonialists behaving as white colonialists behaved, indeed as people in archetypal roles since Sophocles still behave - albeit in the cinematic mannerist modality of the film's period.
Missed too often, but not to be missed here is how Morocco, in its own stylized Sternbergian way, deals with enduring human nature: lust and love; jealousy and covetousness; pettiness and spite, anger and beneficence; harshness and tenderness; not to mention the ineffable human wont to go head over heels, round the bend, over a lover: what we have in Morocco is not a didactic narrative but an epoch-bridging fable. And despite the dated dialect of its dialogue language, it's remarkable how much and exactly what this 1930 film dared to show and got away with showing. (Anyone with a matured world-view ought to be aware that, seventy years hence, rap star films of the two thousand-aughts - as well as films employing the standard English of the early twenty-first century - are likely to be ridiculed or dismissed for their peculiarities of dialect.)
Give yourself a huge wink and watch Morocco, and savor its seductive lenswork, its atmopsheric sets and and costumes and lighting, and its timeless, classical themes which, over all these years since its shooting, remind us that "Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose."
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