30 June 2011

The Scarlet Empress

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It's amazing not only how Josef von Sternberg moves the camera, but how he moves people and uses objects within the frame to compose new shots while moving the camera. Begin shot:

/End shot

In The Scarlet Empress, Sternberg's photographic composition is as lavishly ornamental as the decor,
and someone like Count Alexei (John Lodge) is overpowered by the frame,
secondary to Sternberg's cinematic art. Sternberg, who calls actors marionettes.
The only person whose humanity punctures the synthetics is Catherine II, Marlene Dietrich, whose powerful personality Sternberg amplifies, making her the most magnetic, interesting, and extravagant part of the movie, and wonderfully so.

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