Tabu: A Story of the South Seas (1931)

Tabu: A Story of the South Seas
Director: F.W. Murnau
Writer: F.W. Murnau, Robert J. Flaherty, Edgar G. Ulmer
Cast: Matahi, Anne Chevalier, Bill Bambridge, Hitu, Ah Fong, Jules, Mehao
Seen on: 14.4.2018

On Bora Bora, a young boy (Matahi) and a young girl (Anne Chevalier) fall in love. But when the girl is declared the Chosen Maid, the sacred virgin of the island by their leader, an old warrior (Hito), not even the thought of love is allowed anymore. But the boy and the girl are not willing to accept that and decide to flee.

Tabu is on the one hand an interesting look at Bora Bora’s society at the time and a glimpse at a world mostly unfamiliar to Western audiences. On the other hand it’s a white, exoticizing, racist mess that needs to be looked at with a tablespoon of salt.

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Die 3 Groschen-Oper [The 3 Penny Opera] (1931)

Die 3 Groschen-Oper
Director: Georg Wilhelm Pabst
Writer: Béla Balázs, Léo Lania, Ladislaus Vajda
Based on: The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill
Cast: Rudolf Forster, Carola Neher, Reinhold Schünzel, Fritz Rasp, Valeska Gert, Lotte LenyaErnst Busch
Seen on: 13.02.2015

Mack the Knife (Rudolf Forster) knows what he wants and he takes it any way he can, which is also possible with the help of his old friend Tiger Brown (Reinhold Schünzel), chief of police. Mack decides that he wants to marry Polly (Carola Neher). Polly agrees, but her father Jonathan Jeremiah Peachum (Fritz Rasp) knows nothing about it. But Peachum is not to be trifled with. From running the beggar’s guild, he has both money and influence which he both uses to pressure Tiger Brown to finally arrest Mack.

In the description of the film it was mentioned that Brecht himself hated this version of his opera. Generally the Threepenny Opera is a bit of a household brand but I didn’t know much about it before seeing the film. I did recognize some of the music that I didn’t know was from the opera, and I knew that it was about Mack the Knife, but other than that, I was completely fresh to the experience and I can’t understand Brecht’s hatred at all. It was a delightful film.

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City Lights (1931) + Timothy Brock and the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra

City Lights
Director: Charlie Chaplin
Writer: Charlie Chaplin
Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, Harry Myers, Hank Mann
Part of: Film and Music Cycle in the Konzerthaus
With music by: Timothy Brock, played by the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra

A Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) falls deeply in love with a blind Flower Seller (Virginia Cherrill), so much so that he even spends his last money to buy a flower off of her. The girl mistakes him for a rich man though, which at first seems irrelevant. But when the Tramp meets the Millionaire (Harry Myers) – by keeping him from committing suicide – he is rewarded for it, though not always reliably, and starts to make the girl’s life easier whereever he can by courting her as a rich man.

City Lights is a wonderful film – in equal parts funny and touching. And Brock’s music is beautiful and really sets the mood for the entire thing.

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