Saturday, January 14, 2012

Marlene Dietrich, in Morocco

approximately 48 minutes and 14 seconds
53.4% of the film

The film

It's the story of a Foreign Legionnaire who meets and falls in love with a singer.

You can read my short review of the film just by clicking HERE.

It’s a film with plenty of potential because of the exotic location and the charming persona of Marlene Dietrich. It does feel special, but ultimately fails because of the unconvincing love story. I didn’t feel the characters were motivated enough.

Marlene Dietrich as Amy Jolly

With this being Marlene Dietrich’s only Oscar nominated performance, I’m sure modern audiences put a lot of pressure on it and come in with high expectations. That’s not fair, given that she was still a young actress at that point and this happens to be one of her first English-language films. So it’s not a career best performance (from what I’ve seen, I’d give Witness for the Prosecution that honour), but it sure makes for a special nomination.

Marlene plays Amy Jolly, a singer that arrives in Morocco and starts working in a night club. It’s here that she meets a handsome legionnaire and falls in love with him. While she is courted by a rich older man, she simply can’t get over her feelings for the soldier. It’s not a very tragic role, but it does have its key dramatic moments; also, it gives Marlene the chance to sing, something that people from the era seemed to think she was good at.

Marlene creates the character as a quiet, solitary, almost mysterious woman; you won’t see her laugh and she almost never smiles. While this makes the character feel dull at times, it lets us believe that Amy has led a rich emotional life and it gives the impression she is an experienced woman who has seen plenty of things during her lifetime.

The main thing that defines the character throughout the film is her passion for the legionnaire, played by a gorgeous young Gary Cooper. While we can easily believe her crush on him, a complete love story feels unjustified and forced in by the poor writing. Unfortunately, this unconvincing romance is the foundation both for the film and Marlene’s performance, and it ends up affecting the performance.

Marlene tries her best: her desperation is played with a lot of talent and you can notice how she changes everytime he’s around, there’s no need for words. But while I appreciate Marlene’s effort, it’s all for an unconvincing cause: such an experienced, controlled woman would not lose her mind for a man she’s seen just once or twice.

But as I said: the vulnerability is beautifully played, with Marlene’s sad, expressive eyes as the winning element of the performance. To me, the overall performance lacks tears or it lacks joy, it’s too quiet to be considered a great one. The occasional levels of intensity do not help it rise to a fully satisfying level; during the whole film I still felt like something was missing.

I won’t spend time writing about the kissing scene, as it doesn’t define at all the performance; the musical numbers didn’t impress me either, and even those felt strange and restrained. It’s an unusual performance for Oscar to go for, a mysterious one that I will probably remember more fondly than my rating suggests: judging it as objectively as I can it’s a strong .

Talking about a diva was the way to go here: this is performance number 100 that I get to write about… After I write the Conclusions for 1931, there’ll be some short celebration remembering a couple of the first 100; nothing too fancy, but the number is respectable enough to require mentioning.


dinasztie said...

You should have picked a special year and performance to be 100th. :)

Otherwise, great review, I enjoyed it. :)

Fritz said...

Congratulations on number 100!

JC said...

Congratulations for reaching review # 100! =)))

Alex in Movieland said...

Thank you guys!!

Daniel, in a way I agree, but I've promised myself to stick to the draws whenever I can: and this was the one the draw decided. :)

dinasztie said...

And congrats, I forgot! :)