Movie Diary 4/15/2019

The City Without Jews (Hans Karl Breslauer, 1924). Restored/rediscovered print of a real curio, an Austrian fantasy/satire about a society where anti-Semitism is intense enough to prompt a locality to expel its Jewish population, with disastrous results. Seen from the post-Holocaust perspective, the film looks clairvoyant, and some of the jokes are shaded by intervening history. A remarkable artifact, even if the delivery is workmanlike (save for a couple of expressionist moments, including one sequence that looks like a deliberate spoof of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari). Based on a novel by Hugo Bettauer, a prominent provocateur of the time who was assassinated in 1925 by an early-adopting Nazi. Screened at the Paramount theatre, with score by Gunther Buchwald performed by the Seattle-based ensemble Music of Remembrance.

Broken Lullaby (Ernst Lubitsch, 1932). A shell-shocked French WWI vet (Phillips Holmes) can’t shake the memory of the German he killed in the trenches; he visits the dead man’s family without revealing the exact nature of his connection. A delicate, grief-stricken film, catching the same anti-war mood as All Quiet on the Western Front, with Holmes’ performance practically suicidal. Some well-placed Lubitsch moments, although overall the film is sluggish (maybe a hangover from the stage version?), even beyond what its somber mood requires. Lionel Barrymore and Nancy Carroll play the dead man’s father and fiancee.

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