One of the masters of early German cinema, G.W. Pabst had an innate talent for discovering actresses (including Greta Garbo). And perhaps none of his female stars shone brighter than Kansas native and onetime Ziegfeld girl Louise Brooks, whose legendary persona was defined by Pabsts lurid, controversial melodrama Pandoras Box. Sensationally modern, the film follows the downward spiral of the fiery, brash, yet innocent showgirl Lulu, whose sexual vivacity has a devastating effect on everyone she comes in contact with. Daring and stylish, Pandoras Box is one of silent cinemas great masterworks, and a testament to Brookss dazzling individuality.
G.W. Pabst's Pandora's Box
serves as a filmic window into the decadent Weimar Republic because of its tauntingly beautiful star, Louise Brooks. Brooks, encompassing the very essence of sexual allure and mystery, is iconically linked to her character, Lulu, the dancer-turned-streetwalker who captivates all men in her path with her elusive beauty. Set in Berlin, 1928, Pandora's Box
is about Lulu, an aspiring star whose patron, Dr. Schön (Fritz Kortner), finds loyalty to his fiancé impossible because of Lulu's unsurpassed charm. Schön's son, Alwa, also falls in love with Lulu until a series of tragic incidents render them destitute in London, where Lulu resorts to prostitution and, in a final devastating scene, picks up her final john, Jack the Ripper. In the silent film era, Brooks's expressive face and graceful movements enabled her to epitomize a Roaring Twenties' version of feminism: innocence underpinned by sexual innuendo. Key scenes in Pandora's Box
, such as when Lulu thrills at Dr. Schön's fiancé discovering he and Lulu embraced, or when Lulu's gleaming eyes mimic Jack the Ripper's polished knife blade, are radically risqué examples of all-time seductive cinematic moments. The Criterion Collection's beautifully packaged release of Pandora's Box
features a thorough booklet of essays and photos, as well as a biographical documentary about Brooks and an interview with Pabst's son, Michael. After languishing in obscurity for many years preceding her death in the '80s, Louise Brooks will now forever be remembered as Lulu, Hollywood's finest vixen. --Trinie Dalton