Fräulein Else

An exquisite masterpiece on a market drop and the obliteration of a Viennese speculator whose daughter is off at St. Moritz with a cousin who couldn’t care less, the family friend who could help is also there, “ich möchte,” he says, “Sie sehen,” indicating a statue nearby.

Albert Bassermann as the paterfamilias, Elisabeth Bergner his daughter.


The Woman He Scorned

A hooker is brought in to the lighthouse as the keeper’s bride following on his vow in a storm at sea to aid the unfortunate. She mends her ways until her pimp shows up on the run, a murderer, and gets her boat and money for an escape. The keeper casts her out, the pimp dies pursued by police, the hooker goes to sea in her rowboat and, tossing aside the oars, perishes in another storm.

The Cornwall locations, beautiful as Gauguin’s Brittany, are at the heart of this film. They extend the range of Czinner’s technique from its kinship with Sternberg’s The Salvation Hunters, Pabst’s Die Dreigroschenoper and so on, to Hitchcock’s The Manxman.



The Rise of Catherine the Great

It comes with her marriage to Peter, the next Czar and Emperor of all the Russias, following on the death of Empress Elisabeth, who believes no man can rule.

Peter is, naturally enough, rather circumspect in court with regard to women, rejects an imposed marriage with Catherine, and wishes his aunt were dead.

What with one thing and another, he is mad, and his short reign is wearisome and insupportable, even for him. Little Catherine he calls her, she is put on to repine at the death of the Czar by the hand of one who, like Russia herself and two foreign ambassadors at the Imperial dinner table, simply could not bear the wretch any longer.

Like Sternberg’s the scarlet empress, a film of utmost simplicity.


As You Like It

The ways of exile are Love and Melancholy, the play chooses the true religion over oblivion, Czinner’s analysis drives the film in all its parts.

A wager in the void, full of terribilitas, “a pretty comedy” to Frank S. Nugent of the New York Times.

Time Out Film Guide has reference to “the leaden, lacklustre Czinner.”

One who has written foolishly of the cinema at times and repented may regard Graham Greene’s complaint of “far too many dull middle-length shots from a fixed camera” with equanimity.

“By no means a contemptible production,” Pauline Kael wrote in The New Yorker. Halliwell’s Film Guide says “stylized, rather effete but often amusing”.

The model for Olivier’s subsequent film productions.


Dreaming Lips

Czinner’s virtuosity is relatively straightforward as these things go, a fact noted in Variety’s praises, Resnais needed a considerable effort in Mélo to carry out the overtones, not adding much but perfectly, by way of analysis.

The location is London, Walton supplies the incidental music, the London Symphony Orchestra plays itself or something like it, the poisoning is strictly speaking a dream. The absconded wife dies in the Thames, leaving a suicide note in her purse, read by a bobby among the would-be rescuers.

Her husband is the orchestra leader, her lover a touring violinist of Spanish extraction, a cold caught seeing him off in the rain lays the husband up (they studied at the Vienna Conservatory together), necessitates an operation, and threatens his hearing.

As in Resnais, he knows nothing.

Co-directed with Lee Garmes.


Don Giovanni

The joke is that after three hours of the finest music ever penned, Don Juan is sent to hell by a man of carven stone (there, Baudelaire reckons, to dwell in lasting contempt for the clod).

Furtwängler conducting at the Salzburg Festival, Cesare Siepi in the role.

The New York Times was very severe in a joshing sort of way, warning “unwary movie fans” lest they should “expect any kind of motion picture at all”, which was Halliwell’s opinion of Losey’s film.


Der Rosenkavalier

The Princess, growing older. Baron Ochs, growing younger.

Octavian, in disguise as maid Mariandel, who must be the Rosenkavalier to Sophie.

Von Karajan at Salzburg, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf et al., several cameras catching the act (six camera operators are listed).

The somber indispensable joke of Don Giovanni is quite forgotten in brilliant editing and incidental camerawork.

Sophie’s handkerchief is famously not forgotten.


Romeo and Juliet

The deficient choreography is carried by the girls with absolute precision, Fonteyn is the flower of this, modern as can be.

The men are game as hell in the swordfight between Mercutio and Tybalt, Nureyev divides himself between pure technique in repose and the skills of a born actor.

The genius marries at last before the final curtain. The score would melt the heart of a commissar.

Six cameramen cover the work completely.