Lucienne, typist and gorgeous bathing beauty, decides to enter the 'Miss Europe' pageant sponsored by the French newspaper she works for. She finds her jealous lover Andre violently disapproves of such events and tries to withdraw, but it's too late; she's even then being named Miss France. The night Andre planned to propose to her, she's being whisked off to the Miss Europe finals in Spain, where admirers swarm around her. Win or lose, what will the harvest be?
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★★★★★ review by JASchrecker on Letterboxd
Though not as highly regarded as the two films Brooks completed with Pabst while in Europe, this film surpasses both of them, even if just barely. Sure, the narrative is pure melodrama, but the articulate camera work finally captures Brooks in a way she DESERVES, and let's not fool ourselves, if anyone's watching any of these films, it's for Lulu.
But can we talk about that ending scene? Nearly 100 years later, and it still stands as one of the most well-crafted climaxes.
★★★★ review by ObscureHollywood.net on Letterboxd
Typist Louise Brooks submits her picture to the contest for the selection of Miss France. She mentions the contest to Georges Charlia, her fiancé, who denounces such contests as immoral. Brooks is selected Miss France and goes to San Sebastian, Spain to compete for the title of Miss Europe. Her fiancé follows her. Brooks and the young women representing other European countries parade in swimsuits before a large audience. The response of the audience members is used to determine the winner, and Brooks receives the most enthusiastic response and is named Miss Europe. At a party in honor of the contestants, she is admired by everyone and pursued by several rich and handsome young men. Her fiancé has arrived, and he informs her that she must return to Paris with him or break off their relationship. She returns to Paris. Some months later, Brooks and Charlia are married and living in a small apartment. She is bored and unhappy with the constrained life. When she signs some photos of herself as Miss Europe, her husband becomes angry and tears them up. Jean Brandin, one of the men she met at the contest, comes to offer her a movie contract, but she refuses to sign it. She and her husband go to a carnival where she is surrounded by crudity and cheapness. That night she decides to accept the movie offer and leaves her husband a goodbye note. He follows her to the movie studio where she and Bradin are watching her screen test. He husband enters and shoots her. As Bradin mourns over her, her husband looks on enigmatically.
What is the message? -Beauty is fleeting -Don’t marry a possessive Frenchman -Enjoy your life your own way, while you can
The story offers a good part for Brooks who looks fresh and beautiful. The experienced director, Augusto Genina, brings out good performances in Brooks and Charlia.
Silent films were obsolete in 1930. Brooks found her greatest success in European films that were made too late to find an audience, especially in the US. Filmmaking in the US transitioned to sound during 1928, and by 1929 only a few films were silent. Brooks is very good, and the film is strong and compelling. We enjoy it today, but it was not wanted at the time it was made.
★★★½ review by Filipe Furtado on Letterboxd
★★★★ review by alex on Letterboxd
That Ending Shot Tho
★★★½ review by Catherine Stebbins on Letterboxd
I simply cannot deny Louise. Prix de Beauté is the last European hurrah for my all-time favorite screen presence. After this she’d return to Hollywood, land of bit parts and bankruptcy. She led a long life post-Prix de Beauté, but this is the film that siphons off her celluloid legend. If Louise fills the frame, if the film knows how to showcase her effortless and unaffected mythic energy, down-to-earth and beyond us all with that irrepressible glow, does the film itself matter?
I happen to enjoy the by-turns awkward and arresting Prix de Beauté very much. One of the first sound films made in France (it also has a 1929 silent version), it resembles a rough cut in that, though there’s vision in its organic images, nothing, except Brooks, is completely locked into place. It’s a talkie with an entirely silent sensibility, made possible by the fact that the sound, including dialogue, took place during post-production. This frees up the camera for rambunctious mobility at every turn, and it’s supported by the zeal that drives Lucienne toward her dreams. She wants to participate in a beauty contest, but her boyfriend won’t allow it. With a choice of being owned by her beau or worshiped by the public, she deserves more than both but achieves neither. The famous final sequence, dizzying in its flickering destruction, strikes Lucienne down just as her (screen) life begins. As sound ushers in, Louise Brooks is ushered out, her physical body left behind for something incorporeal, an eerily fitting finale to her immortal image.
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