Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Der letzte Mann, Harald Braun, 1955

A remake of Murnau's THE LAST LAUGH... but it is so abysmal in this regard that it isn't even fun picking its failings apart - and I'm not even all that fond of that particular Murnau film. But Braun's version is a terribly stilted authoritarian fantasy - and the perfect asshole movie. All of the characters are assholes. In the end, the biggest asshole gets to be a hotel director, and the second biggest asshole gets the girl. The girl is played by Romy Schneider, who looks stunning and is even framed effectively (Richard Angst's cinematography is by far the best thing about this). But who also plays an asshole.
The problem clearly isn't craft. Not only because of Angst; Braun is a talented director who can make good use of actors, emotions, and interiors; Schneider is a great actress, of course; and at least Joachim Fuchsberger could also have had a really great career, if he'd worked in the US, or in Italy. There are quite a few shots and even small scenes that point towards a much more interesting film about a self-righteous middle class man encountering mortality. But these short moments of bitter grace are literally buried in trivial clutter of the worst sort - not that triviality is a bad thing in itself, but here all the stuff about the hotel guests, Hans Albert's relatives etc is clearly nothing but filler material. Or maybe: Braun's triviality is instant triviality, a triviality that isn't earned by the film, isn't rooted in its world or characters, but instead just a convenient shorthand, a way not to speak about certain things, not to take feelings, actors, emotions (let alone politics) at face value.

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