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HOME MOVIES

By KAREN MARTIN SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

This article was published December 28, 2012 at 12:19 a.m.

— Josef von Sternberg, The Blue Angel, (1930) Kino Classics, not rated, 106 minutes

You’ve probably heard of The Blue Angel, but you don’t really know anything about it, do you? I didn’t, although the name of Marlene Dietrich vaguely comes to mind.

Kino Classics comes to rescue us from our ignorance by releasing the 1930 production - one of the first German talkies and a shining example of cinema influenced by the German Expressionism art movement - on Blu-ray.

Austrian-American filmmaker Josef von Sternberg’s film, newly restored in HD from archival 35mm elements, stars German expressionist actor and Academy Award winner Emil Jannings (The Way of All Flesh) as Professor Immanuel Rath, a sexually repressed instructor at a boys’ prep school.

Knowing his pupils are enamored of French postcards featuring a singing siren at the sleazy local Blue Angel cabaret, he decides to go see what all the fuss is about (and maybe catch some of the kids hanging around the nightclub). That’s when he gets his first look at Lola Lola (played by then littleknown Dietrich) singing “Falling in Love Again” in her now infamous getup of top hat, stockingsand bare thighs. So much for Rath’s smug self-righteousness - he leaves it far behind as he races down a chaotic path of seduction, degradation and madness.

The sexual predator role of Lola made Dietrich an international star; she went on to make five more seductively soft-focus films with von Sternberg, including Shanghai Express (1932), The Scarlet Empress (1934) and The Devil Is a Woman (1935).

The Blu-ray of this arrestingly visual film offers the original German-language version with optional Englishsubtitles; a nearly identical (and thought long-lost) English version was screened in 2009 in San Francisco’s Castro Theater as part of the Berlin and Beyond Film Festival.

Other recent releases:

Red Hook Summer (R, 122 minutes) Director Spike Lee continues his “Chronicles of Brooklyn” series (She’s Gotta Have It, Do the Right Thing, etc.) in this story of Flik (Jules Brown), a sullen 13-year-old prep-school kid from Atlanta who comes to the decaying housing projects of Red Hook to spend the summer getting acquainted with his grandfather, a pompous preacher (Clarke Peters). “Spike Lee’s messy, meandering, bluntly polemical Red Hook Summer hasone crucial ingredient: a raw vitality,” says New York Times film critic Stephen Holden.

Trouble With the Curve (PG-13, 111 minutes) An aging baseball scout (Clint Eastwood) who seems to be losing his chops gets help on a scouting trip to North Carolina from his estranged hotshot-lawyer daughter (Amy Adams). “The team behind Curve, directed by Eastwood’s production partner Robert Lorenz, who clearly honors his mentor’s no-frills style, knows that those who want to see Eastwood go with expectations,” says New York Daily News critic Joe Neumaier. “So the movie hits a line drive right to where it should be.” With Justin Timberlake, JohnGoodman, Matthew Lillard.

The Words (PG-13, 97 minutes) A drama about the cost of literary success for author Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper), whose ambition leads him to steal another man’s work. “Resembling nothing so much as one of those hermetic Woody Allen comedies about self-absorbed intelligentsia, only without the comedy, The Words lays its bookish credentials on thick but rarely feels honest or true,” says CNN critic Tom Charity - not that fans of Cooper will care. With Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Zoe Saldana.

Karen Martin is a Little Rockbased writer and critic. E-mail her at karenmartin18@gmail.com

MovieStyle, Pages 27 on 12/28/2012

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