Diary of a Lost Girl (Masters of Cinema) DVD
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Directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst
Produced in 1929
Main Language - SILENT
In 1928 the head of Paramount refused Louise Brooks a raise. In a typically capricious move, she then did something that killed off any chance of future Hollywood stardom but which instead ensured her cinematic immortality; she walked out, and on the invitation of director GW Pabst, went to Germany and made Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl. Though obscurity followed, and true recognition of her unique film presence took at least a quarter of a century to come, her image is now so familiar that it is unimagineable she will ever be lost again.
Simply, once seen, Brooks is unforgettable. She is a fresh, vital presence who makes other actors look like they are simply trying too hard. In Diary of a Lost Girl she plays Thymiane, the guileless daughter of a chemist whose life goes from home to the reformatory to the brothel, a trajectory set in motion after being seduced by Meinert, the oily manager of the pharmacy. Her world is one of feeble men and pitiless, spiteful women and Pabst relishes depicting the perversity of her milieu. In one scene, the grotesque reformatory director roughly wipes lipstick from a girl's mouth, then confiscates it, applying it to his own lips and writing, with the same lipstick, 'punish Erika' in his diary, adding a heart for good measure. The sequence in which his wife bangs a gong in a climactic frenzy as the girls exercise to her rhythm is genuinely surprising too. Remarkable also are the actions of hands throughout - hands shown grasping, pawing, jabbing and poking at people and objects.
Pabst plays with our expectation as viewers and as voyeurs, getting rid of Brooks' trademark bob and giving her a boy's central parting in the reformatory, and at one point having her friend Erika unbutton the shirt Thymiane is wearing, only to cut just before its removal as Brooks smiles at a remark off camera. Throughout, her expression changes from despair to joy, and from bemused concern to relieved understanding in a moment. There's something altogether precious about her fleeting and fugitive presence on film. Recalling a visit to the film's set, film historian Lotte Eisner wrote that "Lousie Brooks exists with an overwhelming insistence". On film, she still does.
Graeme Hobbs on 16th April 2007
Author of 277 reviews
Vivid exploration of a corrupt society in which sex and money dominate social relationships. Pabst's last silent film is a direct and absorbing view of inter-war Germany; Louise Brooks is stunning, seductive and fascinating, and if one suspects Pabst is less concerned with innocence corrupted than with those doing the corrupting, it certainly doesn't diminish the allure of the film. The ending is surprisingly, but charmingly, upbeat, reminding one that Brooks could make a bad good girl every bit as exciting as a good bad one.
Publisher: Eureka / Masters of Cinema
Length: 106 mins
Aspect ratio: 4:3
Format: DVD B&W
Released: 21st May 2007
Cat No: EKA40075
Subtitles: German intertitles; English subtitles.
- 16 Page Booklet featuring an essay from R. Dixon Smith, vintage photographs and more.
by Anon on 12th October 2001
Not only an illuminating social commentary, but a fascinating collaboration between a great director and a great actress. The camera work (as with 'Pandoras Box') make... Read on
Not only an illuminating social commentary, but a fascinating collaboration between a great director and a great actress. The camera work (as with 'Pandoras Box') makes many modern examples look trite. Hide
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