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... more » Louise Brooks, whose legendary persona was defined by Pabst?s lurid, controversial melodrama Pandora?s 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, Pandora?s Box is one of silent cinema?s great masterworks, and a testament to Brooks?s dazzling individuality.« less
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 11/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is not my personal opinion (I prefer F. W. Murnau's FAUST) but it is the general consensus regarding this groundbreaking adult film which made a screen icon out of Louise Brooks and assured G.W. Pabst his place in cinema history. The movie is based on two plays (EARTH SPIRIT and PANDORA'S BOX) by controversial German playwright Frank Wedekind who wrote them at the dawn of the 20th Century with the deliberate intent of shocking his middle class audience by talking bluntly about the consequences of sex, violence, and hypocrisy. Austrian composer Alban Berg would later use them as the source of his unfinished opera LULU.
G.W. Pabst already had a reputation as a director of German neo-realism thanks to the 1925 Greta Garbo film THE JOYLESS STREET (influenced by D.W. Griffith's ISN'T LIFE WONDERFUL of 1924). In the sound era he would make the film version of THE THREEPENNY OPERA (1931). PANDORA'S BOX mixes realism and German expressionism in equal amounts to tell the story of a naive dancer/prostitute and the tragedy she brings to everyone who tries to become close to her. It's amazing how Pabst saw something in Louise Brooks that no one else did and then brought it out so effectively onscreen. From the performances to the lighting, the editing and the camerawork, to the relentlessly downbeat mood, PANDORA'S BOX is a true landmark of the cinema (silent and sound) that anyone seriously interested in film should experience.
Finally available in the U.S. on DVD, this Criterion 2 disc set is all that you could ask for. The print for its age (1928) looks great and you get the choice of 4 different background scores which show how important music is to silent cinema. Each one makes it a different viewing experience. My personal favorite is Peer Ruben's modern orchestral score although you also get classical, cabaret, and piano to choose from. It also comes with 2 documentaries on Louise Brooks, informed commentary, and a 90 page booklet. Now that's the way to treat a cinema classic!"
The best DVD release of 2006!!!
Robert Badgley | London,Ontario,Canada | 12/02/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I recently received my copy of the newly released version of "Pandora's Box" from Criterion and I can honestly tell you this is my vote for THE best release of 2006,bar none!! To start with just picking this set up is impressive in itself!It comes in a handsome light and dark gray cardboard slip case almost an inch thick and inside it contains a two disk set absolutely loaded with fabulous and unexpectedly surprising extras AND a thick booklet! The two disc set itself has the nice light and dark gray theme carried on for IT'S covering.When you slip the DVD into your player the screen gives you the usual surround and stereo audio options.However it also gives you your pick of FOUR(yes FOUR!!)different scores in which to choose from when viewing the movie.This is totally unprecedented in my experience.The scores are piano,orchestral(an approximation of what the late 20s European theater goer might have experienced),cabaret(a light and whimsical small band style) and modern orchestral.All these choices are absolutely wonderful but my favourite is the piano.However just having these options in the first place helps place this collection right at the top of the heap. And if this wasn't enough film studies professor T.Elaessan and author Mary Ann Doanne together offer up a nice and very informative optional commentary on the film....one which I recommend at some point you give a listen to.And things don't stop there my friends!! Two wonderful documentaries are also included.First is one I had heard of but had never seen called "Lulu in Berlin" produced back in 1984 by Richard Leacock and Susan Woll.It's a delightful film and mainly revolves around an interview of Louise in her home in Rochester,N.Y. a few years earlier.This comes in at around 48 minutes. The other documentary is one that many Brooks fans will know that has come and gone on both DVD and VHS called "Louise Brooks:Looking for Lulu".That's right the self same documentary made by Hugh Hefner back in 1998 with commentary by Shirley MacLaine!!!This finishes in at about 60 minutes. If this hasn't put you flat on your back by now I'm going to execute the coup de'gras.There are also two other interviews included here.One is with Richard Leacock the co-producer of "Lulu in Berlin" and the other with G.W.Pabsts' son Michael.Criterion went back about a year ago and interviewed these two just for this upcoming collection! Next is the astounding and beautifully bound 98 page(from inside cover to inside cover) booklet.The booklet contains information relative to the movie plus three super articles.The first is by Village Voice film critic J.Hoberman,the second a reprint of Kenneth Tynans'article on Brooks "The Girl in the Black Helmet" first published in "Sight and Sound" magazine in June/79 and lastly Louises' own piece titled "Pabst and Lulu" taken from her own book "Lulu in Hollywood".The booklet throughout is lavishly illustrated.A great primer for the novice or a great read for the seasoned Brooksie fans! The only soft spot in this entire release is on the techincal side.Even though it could be considered minor or "picky" by some I think in all fairness it should be brought to your attention.The print itself I don't think is quite as good as it could have been.It is a composite print from the Munich Film Museum/Pabst Collection who's two main sources seem to be Nero and Janus films.When I saw Janus appear on the screen my heart sank because I have never known Janus to release anything but severely slashed and inferior product.In fact the 1986 VHS release by Embassy was a Janus print and it came in at about 110 minutes. The blurb in the included booklet reveals just a small portion of the restoration process on the print which included removing dust and dirt but that's about all.It's a shame the same care that was lavished on Kinos' "Metropolis" release(see my review on that) wasn't extended to this one because it would certainly have made a difference.While this print does show its' age with the usual scratches and streaks evident in many films of this era(maybe a bit more than I'd like!) the most disappointing defect however is the recurring problem of the film going in and out of focus periodically.This is usually a sign of film shrinkage and its' uneven traversing during processing.I have only seen prints of this film like this and was hoping that this release would somehow come from another superior source which would have no such problem.While the Munich Museum doesn't seem to have such a print in its' hands it certainly doesn't totally rule out its' existence.Having said that however I must admit that they certainly did the best they could with what they did have on hand and they have also released the longest print of Pandoras Box I have ever seen which comes in at two hours and 11 minutes!! All inter-titles are in German with English sub-titles. In conclusion Criterion,as usual,has gone the extra mile and delivered a product everyone at every level of its' issue can be proud of.The above mentioned technical flaw aside this release is to me without doubt the BEST release of 2006.This is a higher priced set to be sure as are most of Criterions' products but you can be sure that a Criterion product is a superior product and with all the extras you are getting in this release in many ways it is a steal.And it is a release that no serious collector should be without!"
LEGENDARY CLASSSIC FINALLY ON DVD.....
Mark Norvell | HOUSTON | 09/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film is a must for silent film lovers and connoiseurs of film in general. G.W.Pabst directed and co-scripted a mesmerizing story (based on two plays) and filmed it in Germany with the stunning American actress Louise Brooks. She plays Lulu, a beautiful child/woman who doesn't understand the effect (and destruction) her open sexuality has on those around her. Considered daring in it's day, "Pandora's Box" still carries the emotional and sexual charge it did in 1928, thanks to Brook's striking beauty and performance and Pabst's straight-on directing of the story and it's subject matter---including a Lesbian countess who also falls for and helps Lulu when she's arrested for murder. Lulu is more or less an innocent in that she sees nothing wrong with sex therefore she can't understand the problems she unwittingly causes because others take her seriously and seek to possess her. Criterion is presenting a two disc set of this legendary film and it's been a long time coming. See also Pabst's other excellent German silent with Brooks made the following year (1929) "Diary of a Lost Girl", available from Kino. It's a fine companion piece to "Pandora" with Brooks playing another beautiful and misunderstood waif who ends up in a bordello. Both are collector's items and deserve viewing by modern audiences who are interested in the evolution of film as art."
Ingrid Fernandez | Miami, FL | 11/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"G.W. Pabst is perhaps the most underrated of all the early German film makers. Unlike his contemporaries, Lang and von Stenberg, Pabts never successfully transitioned to Hollywood and was declared a traitor for creating films under the Nazi regime, although he would continue to make films in Germany for the rest of his life. Pabst was not a political man, but a great auteur able to capture the condition of social exile within the changing culture of his time. Based on the controversial plays by Wedekind, Lulu is Pabst's towering masterpiece. She is a symbol of tradition battling modernity, the emergence of the New Woman, the corruption of the old European establishment after WWI and most important, the outsider who is devoured by the forces of legitimate policy and law. However, Lulu is no martyr. She represents the threat of the marginal and its ability to creep into the fragile constructed social reality. She exposes the weakness of this aparatus and lives on as image in the mind of the viewer. Like Pabst, Lulu rises above the compressing political and cultural views of the times, the people and the regimes that followed to become one of early cinema's most potent icons."
Pabst's Unblinking Look at Weimar Germany Embodied by the Ic
Ed Uyeshima | San Francisco, CA USA | 02/06/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There is no argument that Louise Brooks was a galvanizing presence during her relatively brief movie career, and no one knew how better to capture her mercurial personality and timeless beauty than German director G.W. Pabst. Certainly the deluxe royal treatment given this silent classic in the double-disc 2006 Criterion Collection DVD package would portend a masterpiece, but due to a combination of factors, the 1929 film just misses its mark. Part of the challenge is the deliberate pacing and extensive 133-minute running time. Based on two plays by Frank Wedekind, "Erdgeist" and "Die Büchse der Pandora", the screenplay by Pabst, Joseph Fleisler and Ladislaus Vajda is refreshingly frank in its treatment of sexual ambiguity and promiscuity and provides intriguing insight into the social decadence of Weimar Germany. At the same time, the film keeps its epic length focused on the whims and travails of an amoral, rather unsympathetic showgirl/prostitute named Lulu, and the net effect can be somewhat enervating in spite of the potent combination of Pabst's creative vision and Brooks' charisma.
The plot begins with Lulu leading a comfortable life as the mistress of newspaper mogul Dr. Peter Schön. A vivacious and unapologetic flirt, she also tantalizes Schön's naïve son Alwa and the mannish Countess Geschwitz, but she becomes determined to marry Peter when he announces his engagement to the respectable daughter of a government official. As she readies to take the stage in a musical revue, she jealously throws a temper tantrum to prevent Peter from marrying, an overlong episode that exposes his lustful feelings for Lulu in front of his fiancée. Through this twist of fate, Lulu becomes socially prominent, but fate deals harshly with her as she is arrested for murder and sentenced to prison. She manages to escape to a gambling boat where shorn of her famous pageboy bob, she is blackmailed and then winds up walking the streets of London where she eventually meets her destiny.
As Lulu, the stunning Brooks is credible as a tart though not quite to the Shakespearean degree demanded by the story. She has moments of enigmatic power when Pabst's vision becomes palpable, but she never quite transcends the tawdry dimensions of the story. Her severe coquettish look has inspired subsequent generations of actresses from Liza Minnelli in "Cabaret" to Drew Barrymore in "Fever Pitch". The supporting cast is filled with typically excessive performances, in particular, Carl Goetz as the gargoyle-like pimp Schigolch and Alice Roberts as the smitten Countess. The expressionistic look of the film adds invaluably to the story's emotionalism thanks to Günther Krampf's striking cinematography and Andrej Andrejew and Gottlieb Hesch's modernist sets. The first disc has a satisfactory print with some overexposure evident at key moments.
There is an informative if rather academic commentary track by film scholars Thomas Elsaesser and Mary Anne Doane. You can listen to their comments or select among four different musical scores (although the orchestral accompaniment tends to be too overpowering). On the second disc are three solid documentaries - an hour-long 1998 TCM biography, "Louise Brooks: Looking for Lulu", narrated by Shirley MacLaine; a new feature, "Shadow of My Father", where Pabst's son Michael discusses his father's idiosyncratic filmmaking techniques; and a fascinating 48-minute interview with a particularly tough-minded Brooks produced a year before her death in 1985 by filmmaker Richard Leacock and Susan Steinberg Woll. The best extra is the 98-page booklet which includes noted film writer Kenneth Tynan's 1979 New Yorker essay, "The Girl with the Black Helmet", which launched Brooks' renaissance."