In Weimar, Germany, a dour and unlikeable high school professor, Immanuel Rath (Emil Jannings), visits the infamous The Blue Angel cabaret, where he falls for the free-spirited singer, Lola-Lola (Marlene Dietrich). Though she has little affection for the rotund fifty-something, Lola accepts the professor’s marriage proposal. But when he joins her travelling stage show, Lola soon tires of him and turns to humiliating the poor man and forcing him into performing as a clown on stage…
Remember that classic song ‘Falling in Love Again’? Well, this is where it originated. It also made the unknown Marlene Dietrich an international star (she went to Hollywood following the film’s release in 1930), and gave cinema some of its most iconic imagery (especially Dietrich in stockings, top hat, high heels and garter belt – a look that also inspired the Sally Bowles character in the musical, Cabaret).
With Günther Rittau’s luminous monochrome cinematography and Dietrich and Jannings’ captivating performances all masterfully directed by Josef von Sternberg, this is a classic tale of love and obsession that stands the test of time. It is also one of saddest films I have ever experienced. Professor Rath might not be the most sympathetic of characters, but no man deserves the kind of treatment that Lola dishes out. Watching the brilliant Jannings being reduced to a stooge by Dietrich’s sensual songbird is devastating.
The Masters of Cinema Series Dual Format (Blu-ray and DVD) release contains both the German and English language versions (though the German is preferable, especially as Dietrich had yet to develop her iconic breathy accent here). The special features include Dietrich’s original screen test and some musical performances.