Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

100 Greatest Films to Build Your Dvd Library

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

100 Greatest Films to Build Your Dvd Library

Article excerpt

Byline: DEREK MALCOLM

NO.21 THE SCARLET EMPRESS

Criterion Collection.

Dir: Josef von Sternberg 110 mins. 1934

IF YOU read Josef von Sternberg's Fun In A Chinese Laundry, a vastly entertaining self-justification of a career in Hollywood that ended in disaster, you might think he was the most accommodating man alive. But he insists that in each of the seven films he and Marlene Dietrich made, every gesture, every expression and every movement was created by him; she was merely the German puppet who became a star playing his tune.

He said he wouldn't mind screening his films upside-down because their validity lay not in the story, nor in the screenplay, nor in the acting, but in "the phenomenon of visual style".

The director wrote with the camera, and often achieved poetry. For The Scarlet Empress, my favourite of his films, he also orchestrated the score, with bows to Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn and Wagner, and conducted it as well. …

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