Frequently bought together
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Customers who bought this item also bought
One of the crowning achievements of the German expressionist movement, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau's The Last Laugh (Der letzte Mann) stars Emil Jannings stars as an aging doorman whose happiness crumbles when he is relieved of the duties and uniform which had for years been the foundation of his happiness and pride. Through Jannings's colossal performance, The Last Laugh becomes more than the plight of a single doorman, but a mournful dramatization of the frustration and anguish of the universal working class. Featuring a new musical score by the Berklee College of Music, as well as the original score by Giuseppe Becca, this is the definitive edition of the landmark classic, mastered from a 2K restoration by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung.
Special Features: 2K Restoration by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung | New musical score (2017) by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra | Original 1924 score by Giuseppe Becce, orchestrated by Detlev Glanert (2003) | Audio commentary by film historian Noah Isenberg | The Last Laugh: The Making of, a 40-minute documentary | Bonus DVD featuring the unrestored export version with music by Timothy Brock, performed by the Olympia Chamber Orchestra
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Murnau, a visionary, so enraptured and suffused with technical virtuosity, needed someone of Charlie Chaplin's, David Selznick's or Billy Wilder's canny ilk looking over his shoulder to keep him from focusing on the trees to the exclusion of the forest (i.e., pacing, emotional integrity, and tone), and, he needed a better script, one with more meat on its bones. I was initially intrigued by the 90+ year old glimpses of life in Germany during the 1920s. But the story itself, though promising pathos in its treatment of one of the working downtrodden, just doesn't deliver, for me, anyway.
***SPOILERS FOLLOW*** I know this film was a cinematic milestone, a masterpiece stylistically, but its stylistic innovations can't mask a tale poorly told. The last part of the film, in which the protagonist has his supposed last laugh, was played ostensibly for comic effect, as a flight of fancy (the way this was heralded was itself revolutionary, a broad figurative wink by Murnau at the audience- "Here's how we're going to spin this, folks", but that doesn't make it good- it disrupted the pace/mood, such as it was). I found the plot twist neither funny nor touching, but anticlimactic.
From beginning to end, thematically, the film is one-note- if you have money or status you're esteemed, treated well- if you don't, you're not. An important observation on the value of work and workers at the time (one that arguably still holds true today), but GOT IT in the first ten minutes, thank-you, and it's not nearly enough to sustain an entire film. The fact that he struck it rich and that others must now kow-tow to HIM added no new dimensions to the story (handled as it was, flippantly). And in my view that's the most serious problem, the inconsistent tone. It could have been a great comedy, OR a touching drama. Some films succeed in blending comedy and pathos, effect just the right serio-comic balance, but not this one- indeed, I thought each detracted from the other.
Though one must be careful not to view films of yore through modern lenses, I imagine movie-goers of the day would have cheered more heartily and even longer had the doorman inherited his fortune and bought the hotel, fired the cruel managers, and ensured that people were treated as he wished he'd been- rather than mainly stuffing himself and another poor schmuck with obscene amounts of food, or gleefully watching others ingratiate themselves to him for tips. There was one scene wherein he was kind to a restroom attendant, a nice touch, but it too went on for far too long and seemed more comic than heartfelt.
Or, he could have found that his family, friends and neighbors valued him for HIMSELF, the man he was, not for any external trappings or status. Long intellectual treatises have been written about this film and the fact that perhaps only the German mind could comprehend the power of a uniform and the authority it conveyed; maybe so, but for my money focusing on he doorman's inherent worth to those who knew and encountered him would've made for a better, more satisfying film, even in Germany in the 1920s. And finally, I found the crashing orchestration discordant, ill-suited to the subject matter, and didn't lend emotional color or depth to the proceedings (some plaintive violin music, a la Fritz Kreisler, might've been more effective- or perhaps, something whimsical). In a nutshell, for me, a lot to sit through with not nearly enough of a payoff for the time spent.
The film excels in its realism. The few expressionistic elements are occasional moments of drunken revelry which are purely subjective to the characters in the film. It is these moments, along with the famous "happy ending" which make the film such a wonderful example of story construction and audience manipulation in that they exist inside the context of a hyper-realistic world not a strangely expressionistic one.
The story is of an old man, a proud doorman of a luxury hotel. His identity is completely wrapped up in his work. When his duties are taken away from him because of age and frailty, he is sent to become the attendant of the basement men's room. There he begins a rapid decent into degradation and shame.
Murnau's use of light and shadow serves to isolate the old man who progressively, physically breaks down into complete decay. The exaggerated acting conventions of silent cinema carried out masterfully by Emil Jannings, create a heart-breaking cinematic experience.
The juxtaposition of the tragic ending of the story and the comedic epilogue was unprecedented in cinema. The contrast created between the two different parts of the story is almost surreal and certainly jarring. Murnau clearly understands the power he has over an audience as a filmmaker, and he uses that power in a god-like way, to twist their reactions and their emotions.
The viewer is left to wonder whether the film ends in a cold, cynical dream much like Winston Smith slips into before his ultimate and most horrible torture in Orwell's "1984," or is it a pleasant Disney-esque deus-ex-machina happy ending? This innovative style of story telling has been copied by several modern filmmakers. Quentin Tarantino's film, "Inglourious Basterds" immediately comes to mind.
This film is only 90 minutes long and contains many great and innovative techniques, brilliant storytelling and wonderful acting. It is worth a look for those things alone. Highly recommended