Sunday, October 11, 2015

Shanghai Express

1932, US, directed by Josef von Sternberg

It has been a while since I sat in a cinema seat realizing that I was watching a genuine masterpiece unspool in front of me, on almost every level: the cast (with perhaps the exception of Clive Brook, though that may be as much the character he is playing as the actor's style), the astonishing set design (the scenes in crowded "Chinese" towns are magnificent in their detail), the interlocking aspects of the script, and of course von Sternberg's remarkable stylization on the rhythmic level. More surprising to me in some ways was the sense of humour -- it's often very funny, and surely was a major influence on The Lady Vanishes a few years later. Amazing, too, is the sense of genuine depth to the Dietrich/Brook relationship -- real feeling there, even if Brook's character is a bit limited in some ways.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States