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

Plot:
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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Herr Tartüff [Tartuffe] (1925) + Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich / Frank Strobel

Herr Tartüff
Director: F.W. Murnau
Writer: Carl Mayer
Based on: Molière‘s play
Cast: Emil Jannings, Hermann Picha, Rosa Valetti, André Mattoni, Werner Krauss, Lil Dagover, Lucie Höflich, Camilla Horn
Part of: Film and Music Cycle in the Konzerthaus
With music by Giuseppe Becce, played be the Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich, conducted by Frank Strobel
Seen on: 20.3.2018
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Plot:
A young man (André Mattoni) suspects that his grandfather’s (Hermann Picha) housekeeper (Rosa Valetti) is trying to kill him to get to his money. So the young man tries to warn his by then isolated grandfather of her machinations by showing him a film. In that film, Tartüff (Emil Jannings) pretends to be a devout priest. He is staying with Herr Orgon (Werner Krauss) and his wife Elmire (Lil Dagover). Elmire is suspicious of Tartüff and his intentions, but Orgon doesn’t want to hear it…

Herr Tartüff is an enjoyable film and Becce’s music is really quite something. I wouldn’t have needed the entire thing to be longer than it was, but I had a good time throughout.

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Der letzte Mann [The Last Laugh] (1924)

Der letzte Mann (literally: The Last Man)
Director: F.W. Murnau
Writer: Carl Mayer
Cast: Emil Jannings, Maly Delschaft, Max Hiller, Emilie Kurz, Hans Unterkircher, Olaf Storm
Seen on: 13.2.2015

Plot:
The Doorman (Emil Jannings) has been working in the big hotel for a very long time and he takes a lot of pride in his job. But he is also getting old. After carrying a particularly heavy suitcase, he has to take a break – which the Hotel Manager (Hans Unterkircher) sees. He decides that the Doorman isn’t up to the task anymore and that he should do something less strenuous, so he makes him washroom clerk. But the Doorman can’t handle the demotion this means and starts to unravel.

The last F.W. Murnau/Emil Jannings cooperation I saw (Faust) already blew me away, but this film blew me even further (I should make a project or something of watching all their stuff). Both the story and Jannings’ acting had me completely in their grip and I could still cry when I think about it.

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Faust – Eine deutsche Volkssage [Faust: A German Folk Legend] (1926) + Tobias Schwencke and Ensemble Resonanz

Faust – Eine deutsche Volkssage
Director: F. W. Murnau
Writer: Hans Kyser, Gerhart Hauptmann
Based on: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe‘s play
Cast: Gösta Ekmann, Emil Jannings, Camilla Horn

Faust was shown in the Konzerthaus with live music by Tobias Schwencke played by the Ensemble Resonanz as part of their Film and Music Cycle. [Here are my reviews of the other shows in the cycle.]

Plot:
Mephisto (Emil Jannings) is pretty much screwing the world over, sending disease and hunger and death. To put an end to all this, an archangel delivers a wager to him: if Mephisto can get the scholar Faust’s (Gösta Ekmann) soul, the earth is his. If Faust stays strong, Mephisto has to stop. So Mephisto comes to earth to tempt Faust: he gives him knowledge and youth at first and later helps him to get through to the young Marguerite (Camilla Horn).

I still think Faust is a crappy story (even when it’s not told by Goethe), but my goodness, Murnau is one hell of a filmmaker. I seriously loved the film. Unfortunately I did not love the music that accompanied it.

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