This is a particularly valuable documentary for cineastes to savour, because of the unique nature of the reminiscences concerning film personalities in the late 1920s and the 1930s, as discussed by actress Louise Brooks during an interview given her by documentarian Richard Leacock, a work that forms the basis for Kenneth Tynan's famous New Yorker profile of Brooks that, in turn, contributed hugely toward elevating the dark eyed performer to cult status, although there are some who believe that she has not the talent to support the resultant acclaim, but rather that her own writing of her cinema experiences is after being a gift to herself. Leacock crosses against his grain here, as he had promised never to utilize a tactic of an interview, but he blithely alters his decision to create this piece, shot with 16mm. in the former star's small Rochester, New York apartment the year preceding that of her death, a pleasing effort that provides some fresh insights into the careers of notable players and directors, at the same time opening pages of what has been a closed book of her own life. Among the morsels included are: her reason for going to Berlin (more money); a rationale behind the selection of her by G.W. Pabst instead of Marlene Dietrich to play as Lulu in PANDORA'S BOX (Dietrich at 25 was too worn-looking); her complete ignorance of her role, with no knowledge concerning Frank Wedekind, Lulu's creator; the stormy relationship with dilettante George Marshall, owner of the Washington Redskins football team; her detailed comparison of auteur Pabst's working methods with those of Ernst Lubitsch and Edmund Goulding (the great German director employed a separate fashion of psychology with each of his players, whereas the latter pair acted out every role as they wished it to be performed); a description of French director René Clair; her negative opinion of Hollywood "producers": they (all, apparently) are filled with lust for power and a craving to "sleep with beautiful actresses". The documentary benefits as well from some brief but valued clips from other films than PANDORA, including Pabst's powerful DIARY OF A LOST GIRL, featuring Brooks, and JOYLESS STREET, with Greta Garbo, each notable for the imaginative textures created by the director; scenes of Leni Riefenstahl as both director and player; the 1927 silent classic BERLIN: SYMPHONY OF A GREAT CITY; and the sequence from PANDORA wherein Brooks launches into a free style Denishawn dance item. A separate BBC version, part of the British produced series "Film Firsts", and released against the wishes of Leacock, has appended a brief and quite well designed overview of Brooks' career in film, with significant footage, including the final feature film appearance by her, along with short snippets of Vilma Banky, Camilla Horn, and others. Although Brooks emphasises her hatred of Hollywood, she splashes cold water upon the credibility of such an emotion by her return there, completing her cinematic feature film output by acting in "B" Westerns, the final one seen here (with John Wayne), and in the end it is the unique and striking camera technique of Pabst that leaves the most lasting impression, causing a viewer to surmise that perhaps the primary contribution of Brooks to world aesthetics is actually her espousement of the page boy, or bobbed, hair style that she popularized as her trademark.
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