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...
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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>
Worth a look as a film, not as Luigi Pirandello's play adaptation
AS YOU DESIRE ME (1932) directed by George Fitzmaurice (the director of another Garbo movie, MATA HARI from 1931) is the only film with Greta Garbo in which she portrays a character derived from a play by a Sicilian playwright, Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936). The story is very interesting and involving - a Budapest night club performer, Zara, who has lost her long term memory is clamored by an unknown visitor to be Maria, the wife of an Italian baron named Bruno. Although, this does not convince her particularly, she travels to Italy, to Bruno's estate where she meets the baron and finds true love in him. As a result, Zara/Maria finds a solution to her hesitations - never to leave him and to become so "as he desires her" because of his love. The film, however, is not executed very well. Except for some truly memorable moments and some of the best cast, there is nothing unforgettable here - the cinematography is not particularly outstanding, there are some direction shortcomings. Nevertheless, it is worth a look, especially for Garbo fans.
AS YOU DESIRE ME is the only film in which Greta Garbo appears in a blonde wig (fortunately not throughout the entire film but in its first 35 minutes). Although she is not the Garbo that we find in CAMILLE, GRAND HOTEL or CONQUEST, she ALSO gives a wonderful performance throughout. Therefore, it may be said that this film is also full of magic and incredible atmosphere that most Garbo's films can boast up till our times, rich in computer filming and automatic visual effects. SPOILERS: However, other performances are not great, some are even so weak that the value of the film is deduced. Melvyn Douglas, who later appeared in two other films with Garbo (in the wonderfully funny NINOTCHKA by Lubitsch and the infamous boring TWO FACED WOMAN by Cukor), is not that memorable in the role of Bruno in AS YOU DESIRE ME. Consequently, Garbo's great performance is partly lost. Others are also quite pale, including Owen Moore who plays Tony. But the ultimate failure is the choice of Erich Von Stroheim. Although he was a very good director (think about his GREED), what he does in the role of cruel Salter, is a distortion of acting. He behaves as if he did not know how to play! There is no power even in the "controversial" prolonged upside down shot of Salter desirously kissing Zara. In this case, I could not stand him in the scenes with Garbo because the contrast of their performances was so huge that it is not easy to watch the scenes without burning nerves in oneself. Hopefully, however, there are not many shots of Von Stroheim and Garbo. I have read in TCM article that this was the time when Von Stroheim had the most serious problems with MGM. Nevertheless, he should have done a better job. But let us mention some strong points instead of talking about one actor who highly spoiled the film.
AS YOU DESIRE ME is memorable thanks to a lovely scene in the Italian inn when Garbo and Douglas spend their first night of love. Delicate Italian music is played in the background while they talk. Consider the cigarettes... doesn't it remind you of the silent masterpiece FLESH AND THE DEVIL (1926)? Of course, Douglas is not Gilbert and there is not such a chemistry between the stars here as it was in Clarence Brown's silent masterpiece. Nevertheless, the scene is very beautiful with delicate lighting and really nice performances. And the final moment - stereotypical sentence "I love you" is in no way kitschy but rather sounds good and does serve its purpose even nowadays (to move the audiences).
Although AS YOU DESIRE ME was clamored to be Garbo's last film (she left for Sweden in summer 1932), it is a nice movie. But, it is important to state that it is accurate only as a film, not as an adaptation of Pirandello's play. Pity that the play has not been adapted onto screen once again in the 1950s, 1960s or later. Why is Fitzmaurice's movie worth a look? MOSTLY thanks to GRETA GARBO. What an unforgettable actress she was!
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