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.
Memories of a Martial-Arts Master
In this outtake from an interview with Shangkuan Ling-fung, the Taiwanese wuxia icon gets nostalgic about her encounters with Bruce Lee.
How Ron Shelton Did Justice to the “Talking Sport”
The director of Bull Durham explains the ins and outs of bringing baseball to the screen and why Kevin Costner is the finest athletic actor he’s worked with.
The Hope That Fueled Bowling for Columbine
How much can a film turn the tide on American violence? Michael Moore and archivist Carl Deal reflect on the moral urgency that gave rise to one of the most talked-about documentaries of all time.
Bringing the Grit to Philippine Cinema
For Philippine master Lino Brocka, casting a mix of nonprofessional and professional actors was key to achieving his brand of unvarnished naturalism.
This Kiss: Filming an Intimate Moment in The Virgin Suicides
What goes into staging the perfect on-screen kiss? Director Sofia Coppola and actors Kirsten Dunst and Josh Hartnett look back on shooting a passionate make-out session in The Virgin Suicides.