best film: The Blue Angel. I think Von Sternberg is as married to mise-en-scene as murnau is to camera movement or Eisenstein is to montage and editing. The Blue Angel has a simple narrative but the busy mise-en-scene with using set pieces to divide and design the screen is really unparalleled- it’s his greatest achievement.
most overrated: I love Bunuel but I have to admit I think L’Age D’or is very overrated- TSPDT has it at #118 and I’m closer to like #900. I’ve only seen it once though so perhaps a revisit could help.
most underrated: Morocco at #774 is absolutely outrageous. The ending is a top 25-30 ending of all-time in cinema history—it’s devastating. It doesn’t reach the stylistic peaks that blue angel does with the décor but it’s not far behind. I’m 400-500 slots higher than the consensus here
gem I want to spotlight: Hell’s Angels– the production gets most of the ink when people mention or think of hel’s angels. The Aviator, howard hughes, the record expense budget, the reshooting, etc—but what gets lost is that it’s a very good film and several of the sequences are incredibly beautiful. The action sequences in general are superb but the duel sequence, in particular, is one of the best of the 1930’s.
trends and notables: 1930 is absolutely dominated by Von Sternberg and his two films that are #1 and #2 here. Von Sternberg would probably be second only to Renoir in terms of great auteurs of the 1930’s.
best performance: Marlene Dietrich is the easy choice here for me. She’s in both the blue angel and morocco but I’ll single her performance in morocco out if forced to choose. Both films are about unhealthy obsession (my god are they fantastically similar) and in morocco she plays the victim. She’s amazing at both roles actually and it’s a fascinating study. Edward G. Robinson is very good in little caesar of course as well and jannings in the blue angel would be a fine choice as well.
- The Blue Angel
- All Quiet on the Western Front
- Hell’s Angels
- Under the Roofs of Paris
- L’Age D’or
- Little Caesar
- City Girl
- Animal Crackers
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|All Quiet on the Western Front- Milestone||MS|
|Anna Christie- C. Brown|
|City Girl- Murnau||R|
|L’Age D’or- Bunuel||HR|
|Little Caesar- Leroy||R|
|Morocco- Von Sternberg||MS|
|The Big House||R|
|The Blue Angel- Von Sternberg||MP|
|Under the Roofs of Paris- Clair||HR|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives