Lucienne, typist and gorgeous bathing beauty, decides to enter the 'Miss Europe' pageant sponsored by the French newspaper she works for. She finds her jealous lover Andre violently ... See full summary »
Lucienne, typist and gorgeous bathing beauty, decides to enter the 'Miss Europe' pageant sponsored by the French newspaper she works for. She finds her jealous lover Andre violently disapproves of such events and tries to withdraw, but it's too late; she's even then being named Miss France. The night Andre planned to propose to her, she's being whisked off to the Miss Europe finals in Spain, where admirers swarm around her. Win or lose, what will the harvest be? Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cult icon Louise Brooks was never better than she is in this early French talkie, which turned out to be her last staring role.
While Brooks' two German films, "Pandora's Box" and "Diary of a Lost Girl" are far better known in the US, "Prix" is clearly just as good a film, in my view much better than the butchered "Diary."
"Prix" tells a simple story of a working class French girl who dreams of a better life and sets out to get it by entering a beauty pageant. Rising all the way to the position of "Miss Europe," she then gives it all up for the working class man she loves. But she finds that life as a housewife in a dreary walk up flat is killing her soul, as is her jealous husband, and eventually she walks out when she gets a chance at a film contract. But her husband won't let her go and the film builds to a tragic ending that is still considered one of the best climatic scenes in film history.
This film features strong direction, extremely exciting location photography by famed cinematographer (and later director) Rudolph Mate and an intelligent,Spartan script by Rene Clair.
But the wonder of the film is Brooks herself. Although her voice is dubbed by a French actress (Brooks didn't speak French) the film was initially planned as a silent and in large chunks of it, her character doesn't speak, anyway. But Brooks' fortune was her face and what she could do with it and there are few in film history who could do more. While there are some echos of silent film technique in her work, she was so far ahead of her time that most of her performance seems as fresh today as it did in 1929. Whether she is the unhappy girl being dragged by her boyfriend through a working class mob at a carnaval, or the depressed housewife staring into a canary's cage and feeling just as trapped, Brooks is a revelation.
But it is when she is happy in this film that Brooks simply leaps off the screen at you. In most of the still photos she shot over the years, Brooks doesn't smile, apparently because she'd promised herself not to ever wear one of those pasted on grins found on showgirls on stage. But when called upon in a film to express happiness, no one ever exceeded Brooks, who may be the most magnetic actress in film history.
While "Pandora's Box" will always be her signature film, "Prix de Beaute" ranks a close second in my mind as the best film work of her career.
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