In her six Hollywood collaborations with Josef von Sternberg, Marlene Dietrich cuts a uniquely transfixing figure, her mysterious allure accentuated by the director’s chiaroscuro lighting and lavishly stylized settings. But she does far more than just luxuriate in her surroundings: at the heart of these performances was a boldly modern, unapologetically hedonistic worldview, one that she had already begun to cultivate as a stage performer in Weimar Germany. Both she and Paramount Pictures knew what they were doing when they brought her screen persona to the U.S., positioning her as an exotic alternative to the docile female characters who typically populated American movies, and deliberately courting scandal with the same-sex eroticism and androgynous role-playing that had been regular features of her cabaret acts. As film scholars Mary Desjardins, Amy Lawrence, and Patricia White explain in a supplemental feature on our just-released Dietrich–von Sternberg box set, it is this devil-may-care attitude toward sexuality that would make the actor an early pioneer of feminist and queer cinema, and an object of fascination for generations to come.
Donald Richie Uncovers the Traces of a Lost Japan
In collaboration with director Lucille Carra, the renowned writer brought his impressionistic travelogue The Inland Sea—an unusual choice for a film adaptation—to the big screen.
A Palette That Sizzles On-Screen
Filmmaker Darnell Martin and writer Nelson George discuss how vividly Do the Right Thing captures the heat of a Brooklyn summer and the diverse skin tones of its cast of color.
A Genius of French Cinema Delivers a Career-Defining Performance
Raimu is at his subtle best in one of the most moving scenes in The Baker’s Wife, a moment in which the actor channels the collective despair of France’s working class.