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  Love of Jeanne Ney, The Crimea River
Year: 1927
Director: G.W. Pabst
Stars: Edith Jehanne, Uno Henning, Fritz Rasp, Brigitte Helm, Alfred E. Licho, Eugen Jensen, Hans Jaray, Sig Arno, Hertha von Walther, Vladimir Sokoloff, Jack Trevor, Mammey Terja-Bassa, Josefine Dora, Heinrich Gotho, Milly Mathis, Margarete Kupfer
Genre: Drama, Thriller, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: The Russian Revolution is still being fought in some places in its territories, and that includes the Crimea, where Reds and Whites are battling it out in ugly skirmishes, but for many, it feels as if it's all over bar the shouting. Nevertheless, there are those remaining in the most contentious of environments, like Andre Ney (Eugen Jensen), who reports back to Europe on developments, and the "snitch" Kabiliev (Fritz Rasp), who is merely present to exploit the situation for monetary gain. Ney's daughter Jeanne (Edith Jehanne) is there with him, and has fallen in love with a Bolshevik, Andreas Labov (Uno Henning), causing trouble for everyone...

German director G.W. Pabst will always be remembered for the two silent classics he made with American import Louise Brooks, Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl but before he made those, he made the lesser known but somewhat prized by silent film fanatics The Love of Jeanne Ney. Pabst would see his star fall as the years went by and his talkies are not considered up there with his silents, and he blotted his copybook by making films in collaboration with the Nazis; despite showing contrition for these efforts, there were many who would never forgive him, and that means his reputation took a significant dent in the post-war years.

It's always a problem with German filmmakers who were around in the Nazi era - what did you do in the war? With the benefit of hindsight, you imagine few outside of the likes of Emil Jannings would have been proud of their Nazi work, but you could observe nobody knew which way the world was going to go back then, and hindsight would have prevented a whole lot of issues throughout history, being as it is 20/20. There was certainly no support for the fascists in this film, indeed the hero was a Communist, and one of the characters was played by Brigitte Helm, Maria from Metropolis here cast as a longsuffering and saintly blind cousin of Jeanne.

Helm made her name that year in the Fritz Lang science fiction epic, but was never happy with acting, and it had been her mother's idea to enter pictures anyway, so she walked away at the height of her fame. This is worth knowing because part of that growing distaste for the German industry of the thirties was the increasing Nazi influence, which she wanted no part of, therefore it is possible to acclaim Helm this far into the future whereas Pabst remains problematic. Certainly what comes across as if it will be a heavyweight political film concerned with war and morality sticks with the latter for the second half, and what had been a grave, rain-soaked examination of the early years post-Revolution winds up as a thriller.

If nothing else, it demonstrated Pabst could have been a dab hand at suspense and even action had he wished, something Hollywood could have taken advantage of had his stay there been a happier one, leaving him with little choice but to return to Berlin. The twists and turns of the plot may have been at a hundred and eighty degree angle from what went before, but if it had stayed sober-faced then it would have squandered a terrific performance of villainy from Rasp, that incorrigible rogue of German cinema. He will make your skin crawl as his busy hands wander over Jeanne, and his sneer is enough to have you anticipating his downfall as he manipulates the Parisian population against the lovers - the French capital is where most of the characters end up. To say more would be to spoil a rollicking thrill ride (eventually), but be warned there is a dose of parrot abuse if you are an animal lover, otherwise, after a leadfooted start this really picks up.

[The Eureka Masters of Cinema Blu-ray has the following features:

1080p presentation on Blu-ray, fully restored with a score by Bernd Thewes | Optional English subtitles | Alternate US release version with music by Andrew Earle Simpson | Too Romantic, Too Ghastly - Brand New video essay by David Cairns and Fiona Watson | PLUS: A collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Philip Kemp.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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