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Pandora’s Box

Sat / Feb 29, 2020 - 8:00PM

1929 silent film masterpiece starring the unforgettable Louise Brooks



About this Performance

Weimar cinema classic Pandora's Box stars Louise Brooks as Lulu, a dancer-turned-hooker who attracts men (and the occasional Countess) like moths to a candle. Marlene Dietrich, then on the cusp of stardom, was considered for the role of the amoral young woman until director G.W. Pabst fixed on Brooks after seeing her in A Girl in Every Port. The American actress brought a vivacity and naturalism to the role – as well as a distinctive bob hairstyle – that gives one of the wildest performances of the silent era continuing resonance with audiences.

If Louise Brooks stands out as an unusually modern woman in Pandora's Box, the film itself serves as a fascinating window on an earlier era. Politicians, titans of industry, and the aristocracy are all part of the milieu Lulu inhabits as the story begins; her eventual descent to a criminal underworld underlines the fragility of German society between the wars. Less than a year after Pandora's Box premiered in Berlin, the stock market crashed in America, pulling the financial rug out from under the Weimar Republic and setting the stage for Hitler’s rise. The Roaring Twenties were over.

While Lulu’s end is not a happy one, Pandora's Box is much more than a juicy morality tale. With tight pacing and a touch of humor, filmmaker Pabst proves a good match for his leading lady (he would also collaborate with Brooks on Diary of a Lost Girl later that year), and Günther Krampf’s B&W cinematography brings the film’s varied people and places into sharp relief. Talent on both sides of the camera elevate what could have been mere melodrama to a celebration of passions unleashed. Even if you can’t always get what you want, desire is a universal language, and Pandora's Box still speaks it eloquently.

Live musical accompaniment will be provided by composer and jazz pianist Cathlene Pineda along with trumpeter Stephanie Richards and guitarist Jeff Parker. Author Thomas Gladysz will be on hand to sign copies of his book, Louise Brooks, the Persistent Star.

Presented in collaboration with American Cinematheque and the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles

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The Weimar Republic
Germany 1918–1933

In the 1920s, Germany saw a remarkable cultural renaissance prior to the rise of Nazism. Intellectualism and modernism took root in the chaotic social and economic climate between world wars. The arts and sciences burst with imagination, queer identities were brought to the forefront, and the lines between high and low art were erased. Join in a wide-ranging look at this fascinating, turbulent time.

Max Beckmann, Paris Society, 1931. Oil on canvas, 43 x 69 1/8 inches (109.2 x 175.6 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

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