On the eve of World War II (1939) English officer Ralph Denistoun is in Nazi Germany on an espionage mission to recover a poison gas formula from Prof. Krosigk. He is helped by Lydia and ... See full summary »
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
In a 1971 film interview with Swedish television, her first television interview, Marlene Dietrich claimed that this was her favorite film that she had made with director Josef von Sternberg. In later years, she would go on to say that it was her all-time favorite out of all of her films. See more »
The partnership of actress Marlene Dietrich and director Josef Von Sternberg was a justifiably famous one, and could even be seen as iconic (personally do consider it so). They did seven films together, starting with 1930's 'The Blue Angel' (perhaps the most historically significant) and ending with 1935's 'The Devil is a Woman', all of which ranging from good to outstanding (the weakest to me being 'Blonde Venus and that was still good).
Of which 'The Devil is a Woman' is one of their best, along with 'Shanghai Express' and 'The Scarlet Empress'. It does end on a bit of a curiously odd note and it's a tad over-stuffed in places. All that aside, 'The Devil is a Woman' to me was a great film with a huge amount to admire.
First and foremost, Dietrich. She was never more beautifully captured on film than in her collaborations with Sternberg and 'The Devil is a Woman' is not an exception. As with her previous films with him she looks luminous, not just lavishly made up and costumed but gorgeously photographed. As for her acting, once again she is fun to watch but also brings a vulnerability to her role which helps make the role a real character.
She is very well supported by Lionel Atwill, excelling in an atypical sympathetic leading role (more familiar with him as a supporting actor), and Cesar Romero's usual suave charm proves crucial in making the most of a character not quite as interesting as Dietrich's and Atwill's. Edward Everett Horton is hilarious. Sternberg's direction is as accomplished as ever.
Can always count on a Sternberg film to be visually beautiful, and 'The Devil is a Woman' does not disappoint. Not just the striking use of light and shadow lighting and the sumptuous settings and costuming but especially the cinematography, which is often enough to take the breath away. The music score is stirring yet not intrusive.
Scripting is sophisticated and humorous, and the story is compelling and actually has more depth than one would think. The erotic, sensual atmosphere intoxicates too.
In summary, a devilishly good film, what a film to go out on for Dietrich and Sternberg. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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