Saturday, 16 March 2019

On Blu-ray - Post-Christchurch NZ citizen David Hare takes solace in the magic of Josef von Sternberg's BLONDE VENUS

"You don't look anything like these other women."
"Give me time."
Dialogue unquestionably written by the master of the mordant, Jules Furthmann for Blonde Venus, read by Dietrich and PI Robert O'Connor (below) in a highly veiled Alabama bar cum bordello.
I mention it because in an exercise to insulate myself from the horrors of yesterday's news in Christchurch, and an encroachingly savage depression, I have, as I usually do in these moments, resorted to burying myself in Sternberg and Jean Gabin movies.
So I finally got around to reading the three terrific essays in the booklet for Criterion's great Jo boxset (cover below). The last by Farran Smith Nehme is a miracle of a piece, tackling perhaps the most neglected aspect of Jo's movies, the crew other than him who worked on them and gave them so much of their lustre. 
After giving honor to supreme artists like Hans Dreier and Travis Banton (Set Design and Wardrobe respectively) and how much the two contributed to defining Paramount house style for the thirties, and with it Jo's own series of fantasmagoria as poetic geographical worlds with Dietrich. 
When Farran gets around to the inimitable and totally mysterious screenwriter Jules Furthmann who worked with or without credit on most of Jo's pictures, she describes a moment when an early script idea by Jo and Dietrich for Blonde Venus was passed on to former Broadway writer Sam Lauren. Lauren comments on having to attend to Jo later in his office which he describes as "three times the size of Hitler's."
I needed that today.

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