Film told in flashbacks of an older man's obsession for a woman who can belong to no-one but can frustrate everyone. The backdrop is SternbergÍs surreal and fantastic Carnaval in Spain. In a café the older man details his encounters with the heart breaker that his younger friend has only just met at the parade. Forewarned, the young man swears he will avoid the fate of his friend, but rushes all the same to his evening rendezvous. A dreamlike story of frustrated, lost romance, spoken in the past tense, never really resolved.Written by
This film is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #935. See more »
Gov. Don Paquito 'Paquitito':
Gentlemen, I'm going to be brief. Tomorrow the carnival begins. Unfortunately, every crook within a thousand miles, every political offender and exile, will try to take advantage of the masquerade. If you catch a man stealing... shoot him. Less trouble afterwards. But I want no useless arrests. Last year, the jail and the hospital were a disgraceful sight. I definitely do not want any interference with the people's pleasures. And if you must make one or two arrests, because you will not listen ...
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A young Spanish radical in old Sevilla learns that THE DEVIL IS A WOMAN, when he falls hopelessly in love with a mysterious female.
Mesmerizing & hypnotic, this is a film which arouses all the senses. Dreamlike in its visuals & nightmarish of plot, it presents imagery so persuasive as to be practically palpable. Director Josef von Sternberg & writer John Dos Passos constructed a miniature madhouse for the mind, in which the viewer gladly finds himself consigned.
Fascinating, coy, deceptive, utterly alluring, Marlene Dietrich dominates the film as an icy-hearted harlot who strews her pathway with the broken bodies & wasted lives of the men she's betrayed. With heavily lidded eyes peering out of her disturbingly beautiful face, she is the very picture of sardonic seduction. Wisely, the film allows her a moment of amusement (for the viewer), letting her perfectly sum up her philosophy in the comic song Three Sweethearts Have I.'
Dietrich's two leading men are both excellent. Lionel Atwill, sadly ignored today, once again exhibits the depth of his acting talent; Hollywood's propensity to place him in horror films often obscured his abilities. Here, he shows us a man fully aware of his complete degradation. Cesar Romero, in one of the finest roles of his early career, more than adequately carries on the tradition of the Latin Lover, but with a twist - here is a romantic hero who is not strong enough to escape from the web of the female spider.
Peevish & pompous, Edward Everett Horton is thoroughly amusing as a flustered Spanish bureaucrat.
Two wonderful English character actresses enliven the proceedings in small roles: Alison Skipworth as Dietrich's disreputable matriarch and Tempe Pigott as an old one-eyed harridan.
Movie mavens will spot Edwin Maxwell as the manager of the cigarette factory and Charles Sellon as a professional letter writer, both uncredited.
Von Sternberg created a masterwork of cinematic symbolism, with innuendo so rife it is incredible it passed the Production Code. In every way, the film is a worthy follow-up to his previous collaboration with Dietrich, the orgiastic SCARLETT EMPRESS (1934).
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