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Varieté 1925
Description: The murderer “Boss” Huller – after having spent ten years in prison – breaks his silence to say the warden his story.
Released: 31 Jan 1926 Director: Ewald André Dupont Writers: Felix Hollaender (novel), Ewald André Dupont (scenario) Actors: Emil Jannings, Maly Delschaft, Lya De Putti, Warwick Ward Genres: Crime, Drama, Romance
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Varieté Reviews:

The print I saw recently did not include the "prologue" mentioned above, which I assume was lifted from the novel on which the movie was based. If it had been included in some form, it would have made few things clearer: 1) where "Boss" got his nickname; 2) why he was so much older than Berta-Marie; 3) why so much older (and less in-shape) a boy would still be a trapeze artist; 4) why the couple seemed so puppyishly in love at the beginning, he to the mission of slavishness; and 5) why "Boss" would be so jealous when Artinelli shows attentions to Berta.None of this is absolutely important to play the film, however, which has beautifully detailed performances and terrific camerawork by Karl Freund. The trapeze sequences will leave you giddy. The montages of tons acts are witty and vibrant. Berlin nightlife in the '20s looks glamorous. And Jannings surely has one of the classic silent-screen actors' faces, eloquently conveying a wide spectrum of emotions."Variete" was a sensation when it appeared, primarily for its camerawork. At the time, director EA Dupont took most of the kudos and seemed launched on a promising career. But he was tapped out after his next flick, the estimable "Picadilly," and in retrospect, Freund is the constructive force whose part in "Variete" assumes a zone in a major body of movie work. That being said, Dupont's work with the actors here is outstanding and a key part of the film's success.


The male flyer initially appears in cinema as a flawed hero. The prototypes are characters found in Tons (1925), directed by Ewald Dupont and based on Felix Hollaender's novel, The Oath of Stephen Huller.This is a semi-expressionist movie about a heavy-bodied catcher-husband, Boss Huller (Emil Jannings), whose wife, Bertha-Marie (Lya de Putti), is seduced from domestic bliss by the trio's lighter-bodied star flyer, Artinelli (Warwick Ward). The cather-husband imagines dropping his rival, the flyer, but murders him instead in a fight, and goes to prison. The seducing male flyer is the provocateur of extreme passion, a position subsumed by female aerialist characters in soon films. But the male aerialist as a criminal, even murderer, intermittently reappears in representation because he epitomizes a capacity for extreme risk-taking, which is translated into socially dangerous immoral behavior. But it is the male flyer who becomes especially vulnerable to depiction as a fallen hero, literally and for losing emotional control.Although little-known today, Tons is one of the major works of German Expressionism. It's an immorality of emotion drama with a fine performance by (the everytime great) Jannings and the unbelievable visual film-making that is the hallmark of the Expressionist movement (extraordinary cinematography by Karl Freund). Tons was heavily censored for its American release; how it was changed makes it almost as interesting as a situation study in movie censorship as it is enjoyable as a movie.In its original version, the movie starts with a drawn-out portion showing how Emil Jannings falls in love with Lya De Putti, left his wife for her, and created a trapeze act with his lover. This part of the storyline was excised fully by the American censors, and game cards added to redefine Jannings and De Putti as the married couple of the U.S. release version. The censors' intent was to erase the plot mission of casting adulterous lovers as the established couple in a love triangle. The result was to far more radically transform the story. The unfaithful husband who is in his turn betrayed by his unfaithful lover is transformed into a sympathetic cuckold. The opportunistic temptress who catches two boys only to end up with none is transformed into a young wife who succumbs to temptation. From unsparing morality enjoy to conventional melodrama, courtesy of censorship.


Variete is a well-directed and well-acted morality play. Chock full of cynical humor and ironic twists, it keeps your attention throughout in expert fashion until the last 20 mins of the movie. Then things unravel too quickly and too obviously to hit home with the intended impact of the final irony. Still, I give it 7 out of 10.



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