Friday, January 28, 2011

TCM celebrates Louise Brooks, Oscars

So imagine my surprise this morning when I opened the paper and saw the following article. Well it looks like I have to finish Lulu real quick before all the excitement is lost.

Jack Garner • January 28, 2011
There's a film you're going to want to see on Turner Classic Movies this weekend.
If you've been in Rochester a long time, you've probably heard of Louise Brooks. She was a legendary silent film star who spent the last third of her life as a recluse in a small apartment on Goodman Street before her death in 1985.

I was blessed to be a good friend of this charismatic and brilliant woman, and was a witness to her latter-day rise to cult popularity, thanks to the efforts of the late Eastman House film curator James Card, a famous 1979 profile in The New Yorker by Kenneth Tynan, and the publication of her fabulous memoir, Lulu in Hollywood.

Twenty-five years after her death, the stunningly beautiful Brooks remains among the most popular actors on Internet sites and among film-still collectors, even though she hadn't made a film since appearing in one of John Wayne's first B-movie Westerns, Overland Stage Raiders, in 1938.

As I wrote in my introduction to Peter Cowie's 2006 book, Louise Brooks: Lulu Forever, Brooks has managed to become a potent and timeless cinema celebrity without ever making a major American sound film. Brooks' reputation rests almost exclusively on a landmark German silent film called Pandora's Box.

As directed by G. W. Pabst, Pandora's Box is a portrait of a seemingly innocent and beguiling woman who moves through life, emoting a burning sensuality and destroying men in her wake, like moths caught in a flame. The 1929 film — one of the last great films of the silent era — is among Roger Ebert's "Great Films," and has been the subject of a prestigious Criterion Collection DVD release.

Most who see this film recognize that Brooks contributes a performance of incredibly unaffected naturalness; it's often called film's first "modern" performance. As Ebert writes: "Louise Brooks regards us from the screen as if the screen were not there; she casts away the artifice of film and invites us to play with her."

Anyone serious about film should see Pandora's Box, which is being aired at midnight Sunday on Turner Classic Movies (cable channel 60). Failing that, check out the high-end DVD or keep watching the Eastman House schedule, where it shows up every few years or so. The film is a staple of the Brooks collection at the Eastman House archive.