The murderer “Boss” Huller – after having spent ten years in prison – breaks his silence to tell the warden his story.
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★★★★½ review by feedingbrett on Letterboxd
Review In A Nutshell:
Criminally under-viewed, E.A. Dupont’s Variete is a feature that doesn’t carry anything truly substantial as far as the story goes, but in regard to the mode that it embraces in its storytelling, this is undoubtedly one of the most brilliant pieces of work that I have ever seen. Dupont applies a fantastic blend of surrealistic and grounded melodramatic energy in its filmmaking that it succeeds in conveying an immense sense of depth in its characterisation, a factor that is critical since the film is supposed to showcase the rationale behind its protagonist’s eventual imprisonment. The film carries an empathetic and emotionally charged performance from Emil Jannings. I could probably go into detail on each aspect of the film’s production, and with it, find a wealth of strengths that justifies this film as a cinematic gem; I am going to save such discussions for that inevitable second viewing.
★★★★ review by Lencho of the Apes on Letterboxd
Emotional rollercoaster, sledgehammer-blunt and sledgehammer-effective, reminded me a bit of Greed in its depiction of a guy who maybe is a little slow, but who grabs hold of an idea and won't let it go. Two breathtaking setpieces - the wedding banquet (probably an influence on Browning for Freaks -- and it has spider-walk dancing!) and the trapeze sequence in Act Three.
Performance styles might interfere with some people's enjoyment; the expressionist mannerisms, when left unchecked, can be ridiculously over-determined (like f'rinstance that lust-face that guys use whenever they're digging another person's action, here and in Joyless Street.)
★★★★ review by James on Letterboxd
German Version with score by Stephen Horne.
Varieté is an another criminally under-seen gem of the silent era, a masterfully presented melodrama with an unsurprisingly magnificent performance from Emil Jannings, astonishingly creative cinematography from the creator of unchained camera itself, Karl Freund and very creative direction from E.A. Dupont.
Heavy expressionist visuals like the opening shot of the prison hallway make way for stunning acrobatic sequences where the camera is seemingly hoisted up by performers and spun up on the ropes for dizzying circus sequences. The bleak narrative that was censored for American audiences features a fascinating love triangle in which a man who betrays his wife is in turn betrayed by his mistress. The carnival is presented as a sensual underworld of burlesque and debauchery, Dupont wasn't afraid to show fully topless women or show off Lya De Putti's voluptuous figure at any given moment.
The Masters of Cinema Blu-ray print looks as pristine as it most likely ever will and even comes with three different scores, one of which is by a band called the Tiger Lillies and is very controversial going off some of the comments here. I'm glad I followed the general consensus that it should be avoided as after listening to it for a bit out of curiosity I have to concur that it's pretty dreadful. Stephen Horne's score is much more suited to both the film and silent cinema in general.
★★★½ review by Wilson on Letterboxd
E.A. Dupont's Varieté is a fascinating, impressively bleak, silent German film starring Emil Jannings. The film is set around a seedy carnival, which allows some absolutely stunning and exquisite trapeze sequences to be filtered into the film. The plot revolves around a love affair, an abandoned wife and children, another love affair and eventually murder. This is not a spoiler, Jannings begins in jail and tells us the tale of how he got there.
The Masters of Cinema tinted print is quite beautiful, though be careful which soundtrack you choose to watch the film with, because the one by The Tiger Lillies is properly dreadful.
Varieté is an impressive film, with Emil Jannings giving a typically fine performance, a couple of years before his Oscar winning turns. He really inhabits the role, his grim countenance giving the film a real power in the final set of scenes.
★★★★½ review by Jumpingfrog on Letterboxd
Oh how I love silent films and oh, how I love Weimar silent films in particular, it's just so rare these days that I get to see anything as such that's really brilliant and totally unknown to me, but that was very much the case with E. A. Dupont's Varieté
Varieté had been intended as a project for F W Murnau reuniting him with Emil Jannings after their ground breaking Der letzte Mann. Set in the backstage world of acrobats and trapeze artistes it's probably the closest approximation we have to Murnau's later, lost Hollywood film Four Devils. Jannings' range in his silent films is quite phenomenal (even if here he's a little too chubby for a trapeze performer) and it's hard to believe this is the same man as the Hotel doorman in Der letzte Mann, the Devil in Faust, the general in The Last Command or the Professor in Der blaue Engel it's just a shame he was also a Nazi...
E. A. Dupont specialised in this kind of backstage story and the two late silents he made in Britain Piccadilly and Moulin Rouge (not to be confused with any of the various other Moulin Rogues) are also well worth checking out. Given his predilection for show business stories I find it rather surprising that he doesn't seem to have used the subject in any of his talkies, which in the early days of sound were replete with such musicals. In fact in the sound era his career, like so many of his contemporaries, went into a terminal decline.
The story is a fairly run-of-the-mill love triangle with Jannings ultimately snapping and killing his rival, but the direction and photography set the film well above the average. The camera work is phenomenal building on the unchained camera techniques developed in Der letzte Mann.
A word of warning you probably want to avoid the score by “The Tiger Lillies” (I certainly did) fortunately the Masters of Cinema blu ray has two far more appropriate alternatives.
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