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Budapest bar entertainer Zara is a discontented alcoholic who is pursued by many men but lives with novelist Carl Salter. A strange man (Tony) shows up on Salter's estate claiming that Zara is actually Maria, the wife of his close friend Bruno. Maria, Tony claims, had her memory destroyed during a World War I invasion ten years ago. Zara doesn't remember but leaves with Tony to Salter's dismay. Bruno, now an officer in the Italian army, tries to coax Maria's memory back on his large estate. No one is really sure if Zara is Maria, and when Salter shows up with a mental case that he claims is the real Maria, everyone on Bruno's estate is desperately searching for the truth. Written by
Gary Jackson <email@example.com>
It is very nice to see Greta Garbo and Erich von Stroheim in their only film together. Garbo was an admirer of the great director-turned-actor-again and insisted on Stroheim's casting. Unfortunately though they have just a few good moments together, and Stroheim hams it up for the most part, making his performance a far cry from the magnetic screen presence he had in films such as LA GRANDE ILLUSION. Teamed with the quite tall Melvyn Douglas as his antagonist he also looks very short which makes him even appear a bit ridiculous and not very menacing in some scenes.
Quite one-dimensional in his part is Melvyn Douglas as Garbo's presumed husband. In a story that is all about confused identities and shattered certainties he leaves no doubt about his romantic sincerity. A thing that really annoyed me while watching is that he permanently holds his face far too close to Garbo's when he is talking to her, which makes her always bend back her body in an uneasy way. George Fitzmaurice was not really an actor's director which would have been crucial for this stagy adaption of Pirandello's play. But then the play would have been way too sophisticated for a 1932 MGM Hollywood flick anyway.
The film is somewhat referenced in Jacques Rivette's 2001 masterpiece VA SAVOIR about an Italian theater group in Paris touring with Pirandello's "Come tu me vuoi". Large portions of the original play are acted out in Rivette's movie and Jeanne Balibar in Garbo's part spots a blonde wig very much like the one her famous predecessor had in AS YOU DESIRE ME, which by the way looks very cool.
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