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Variete (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 5, 2017 by  



“Variete” is a magnificent film from Ewald Andre Dupont.  Created at the height of German Expressionism, the recently restored film features wonderful staging, lighting and wonderful perfomances from Emil Jannings, Lya De Putti and Warwick Ward.  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Weisbaden. 2017 KINO LORBER. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Variete

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1925

DURATION: 95 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio), Color Tinted, German Intertitles with optional English Subtitles, New Musical Score by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra and a 2015 score performed by The Tiger Lillies

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: August 22, 2017


Based on the  Novel by Felix Hollaender

Directed by Ewald Andre Dupont

Scenario by Ewald Andre Dupont

Produced by Erich Pommer

Musical score by Berklee Silent Film Orchestra and also a 2015 musical score performed by the Tiger Lillies

Cinematography by Karl Freund, Carl Hoffman

Art Direction by Alfred Junge, Oscar Friedrich Werndorff


Starring:

Emil Jannings as Boss Huller

Maly Delschaft as Frau Huller

Lya De Putti as Bertha-Marie

Warwick Ward as Artinelli


A rediscovered masterpiece of the German silent cinema, Ewald André Dupont’s Varieté is a visually dazzling tale of love and betrayal, foreshadowing such great works as F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise and Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel. Emil Jannings (The Last Laugh) stars as a carnival spieler who becomes entranced by a waifish dancer (Lya de Putti), and gradually betrays his wife, his honor, and his self-respect in an effort to be the sole possessor of her love. The dynamic camerawork by Karl Freund influenced an entire generation of filmmakers, and can at last be fully appreciated in this exquisite restoration by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung.

Special Features: Mastered from the 2015 restoration by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung and Filmarchiv Austria | New musical score performed by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra | 2015 musical score performed by The Tiger Lillies | Visual essay by Bret Wood | “Varieté: The Making of,” a 7-minute documentary on the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra | Othello (1922, Germany 79 min.), Dimitri Buchowetzki’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s drama of love and jealousy, also starring Emil Jannings and Lya de Putti


German filmmaker Ewald Andre Dupont (or better known as E.A. Dupont) is known as one of the pioneers of the German film industry.

Known for films such as “Piccadilly” (1929) with Anna May Wong and his retelling of the Titanic disaster in the 1929 film “Atlantic”.  But with numerous films in his lengthy oeuvre, one film that stands out and is known among silent film fans is his 1925 film “Variete” during the height of German Expressionism during the Weimar era.

And now the film was released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

In 2015, the film received a restoration and mastering courtesy of the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stifftung and Filmarchiv Austria and the Blu-ray release will also feature two scores.  Which includes the magnificent musical score performed by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra, which fans got to experience live at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival in 2017.  And the film includes the 2015 musical score performed by the British musical trio, The Tiger Lillies known for their music, in this case, which brings together macabre magic of pre-war Berlin with a piano score.

“Variete” stars Emil Jannings (“The Blue Angel”, “The Last Laugh”, “Faust”), Maly Delschaft (“The Last Laugh”, “Familie Benthin”), Lya De Putti (“The Informer”, “Buck Privates”), Warwick Ward (“The Way of Lost Souls”, “La venenosa”) and more.

The film begins with prisoner #28, Huller (portrayed by Emil Jannings) meeting with the judge for his parole hearing and wants to know if he is remorseful over the murders he committed ten years ago and why he hasn’t said anything about it all this time (as it could have earned him parole) and while Huller is not interested in talking, he receives a letter from his wife vouching for his freedom and that she and her son are waiting for him.

This leads to Huller telling the judge of his story.  Ten years ago, Boss Huller was in charge of fairground trapeze artists for the carnival.  He and his wife, Frau Huller (portrayed by Maly Delschaft) were once trapeze artists but they have gotten older and stopped after he got injured.

For now, he is busy as a boss, being a husband and being a father to his baby son and taking care of him when his tired wife needs to sleep.

Life changes for the Huller family when a dancer named Bertha-Marie (portrayed by Lya De Putti) is taken in and is asked if Huller can spare a room for her in his home, as she can dance for their show.

Many who come to the show are smitten with Bertha-Marie who is seductive and many are attracted to her.  As for Boss Huller, he often looks at his wife’s rear and compares it to Bertha-Marie’s rear and starts to see the beauty in her.

One day while his wife is sleeping and he is to take care of the child, Bertha-Marie starts to seduce Boss Huller and as Huller at first tries to resist, he is captured by her charms and the two engage in a sexual liaison.

And Frau Huller starts to notice how her husband looks at her, defends her and catches the two making out.  She now knows her husband is having an affair and Huller now knows he must leave his wife and son and together, he and Bertha-Marie begin their new life together as trapeze artists.

Meanwhile, a big-show trapeze artist named Artinelli (portrayed by Warwick Ward) is without his brother who had an accident and he is recommended to bring in two people, Boss Huller and his girlfriend Bertha-Marie.

When Artinelli and his manager offer the two the opportunity, he is immediately smitten by Bertha-Marie.  While the three would become known as the 3 Artinelli and would wow audiences, Artinelli has one thing in his mind and that is to seduce Huller’s woman, Bertha-Marie.


VIDEO:

“Variete” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio) and is color-tinted. The quality of the film on Blu-ray is fantastic compared to any of the previous DVD releases of the film.  Featuring a remastered/restored version of the film done in 2015 courtesy of the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung and Filmarchiv Austira, the film looks great without any major signs of film damage.  Quite often you will see a lot of film warping, scratches and nitrate damage but this restored version, while not perfectly pristine, shows no signs of major damage, film warping.  While specks and lines can be seen, for a silent film from 1925, this is one of the better films that have been given the restoration treatment.  And all the hardwork put into restoring this film shows.  It looks magnificent on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Variete” is presented with German intertitles with optional English Subtitles.  While the musical score is presented in LPCM 2.0 and there are two soundtracks.  A 2017 musical score performed by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra and the 2015 musical score performed by the Tiger Lillies.  The Berklee Silent Film Orchestra is magnificent, while the Tiger Lillies is rather interesting and gave a different vibe while viewing, as the song is sung throughout, while a piano score is played.  It’s very different but I actually enjoyed it, because it was so unexpected.  Both soundtracks are great but I definitely have to say that I was captivated by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra, while the Tiger Lillies musical score made me want to bob my head as the vocalist would sing “Variete” in various ways.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Varietee” comes with the following special feature:

  • Visual Essay – (10:35) Featuring a visual essay by Bret Wood.
  • Variete: The Making of”– (7:25) Featuring a documentary on the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra creating the musical score for the film and performing it live in front of a live audience.
  • Othello – A 79-minute film from 1922 featuring Dimitri Buchowetzki’s adaptation of the Shakespear dram of love and jealousy, starring both Emil Jannings and Lya De Putti.

When it comes to films that were released during the Weimar era and at the height of German Expressionism, many would often give a nod to films created by Fritz Lang, F.W. Murnau, Erich Pommer, Paul Wegener, Carl Boese, to name a few.

And while E.A. Dupont was one of the other known filmmakers of German Expressionism, fortunately his 1925 film “Variete” was one of the his earlier films that would entertain fans for decades.

In fact, in America, the film was well-received.  Film critic Carl Sandburg wrote back in 1926 of the film:

“Emil Jannings, the male star, does the best all-around work we have seen from his prolific and changeful face, while Lya De Putti, the new female star, is far out of the ordinary and will be discussed freely among 10 or 20 million moviegoers in this country during the coming year.”

Sandburg would further write in his article, “‘Variety’ is one of the few sure master pieces of filmart.”

And while we have seen Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau films receive the expensive restoration and re-release on Blu-ray and DVD, I was quite pleased to hear in 2015 that “Variete” would receive a restoration and as the film has been screened at various film festivals with different scores.

While the film has been available for many decades, it was only available in a heavily edited, censored version.  That changed in 1995, when a video dealer named Peter Kavel found a complete print from Germany and for the first time, people were able to see a complete version which included the intro.  Prior to that, the intro which featured prisoner #28 is being considered for parole and as he tells his story of how he left his wife, the censors in the U.S. felt the film was too much for American audiences at the time and nearly a half hour of the beginning of the film was deleted from the American premiere.

As the subject of vamps and women who are able to take advantage of men was featured often in silent cinema between ’10s and ’20s, what made interesting about “Variete” is the fact that it was at the height of German Expressionism, the storyline is about a woman who knows how to get her way with her beauty and literally as a performer, this personality of Bertha-Marie would not just be for the stage but extended to the men she comes across.

She knows how to use Huller and knows how to use Artinelli as both men provide her with life and material things that make her happy.  In other words, she has men twisted around her finger and she works it in order to get things going her way.

How E.A. Dupont is able to utilize this with the German Expressionism style is through facial expressions, character placement and the use lightening, camera placement and well-timed edits to create this artful masterpiece.

The acting performance by Emil Jannings, Lya De Putti and Warwick Ward was fantastic.

Emil Jannings was one of the well-known actors of his time, creating films in America for Paramount Pictures but would unfortunately lose popularity as he was active in Nazi propaganda, as his films in the ’30s and ’40s would promote Nazism.

Lya De Putti was no doubt an actress who wanted to be part of movie magic in America and the following year, after “Variete” was released, she starred in D.W. Griffith’s “The Sorrow of Satan”.  With her captivating eyes and just a sight that works remarkably on camera, she played primarily vamp roles and starred in , unfortunately, the actress died at a young age in 1931 after developing pleurisy and pneumonia following an operation to remove a chicken bone stuck in her throat.

While Warwick Ward would experience like many other silent film stars, the inability to transition during the beginning of talkies, fortunately for Ward, he was able to transition from actor to film producer in England.

As for director E.W. Dupont, the success of “Variete” insured him a chance to work in Hollywood and he would receive a lucrative contract from Universal and worked on the film “Love Me and the World is Mine” and would go on to make successful films in Britain.  While Dupont emigrated to the US in 1933, unfortunately, he would be assigned to work on B movies and would become a talent agent in 1940 before returning to films in the early ’50s before his death in 1956.

As for the Blu-ray release, as mentioned, the picture quality to this film is fantastic.  Sure, it’s not pristine but for a silent film, “Variete” looks absolutely magnificent.  And for me, part of the enjoyment, aside from watching this film restored and remastered is having the choice of two musical scores.  The Berklee Silent Film Orchestra score is magnificent but to my surprise, the score by the Tiger Lillies was unexpected because its singing throughout with a piano, drums and cello and the score is no doubt a different vibe from the Berklee score.  But I enjoyed both, as they both bring different vibes to this film.

As for the special features, included is a short visual essay, a making of the score featuring the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra and the 1922 film “Othello” (an adaptation of the Shakespeare drama) starring both Emil Jannings and Lya De Putti.

Overall, “Variete” is a magnificent film from Ewald Andre Dupont.  Created at the height of German Expressionism, the recently restored film features wonderful staging, lighting and wonderful perfomances from Emil Jannings, Lya De Putti and Warwick Ward.  Highly recommended!






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