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I Found It At The Movies: 1933: Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (Fritz Lang)

I Found It At The Movies: 1933: Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (Fritz Lang)

Blog - I Found It At The Movies

Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.

I’ll start by saying that of all my top picks, this is absolutely one of the most tenuous. I like this Lang film, but there are probably another seven or eight by him that I like even better (The Big Heat, Metropolis, M, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, Moonfleet, The Woman in the Window, You Only Live Once). And I still have some Lang films to see.

My pick has a lot to do with 1933 being a slightly less than stellar year, and admittedly I still have some major gaps to fill.

I first saw Mabuse at a great place that used to be in Paris called the Videotheque de Paris. It was a film library that also had one fantastic theater. I’m not sure why it closed, but I had several very memorable nights there. I saw Claire Denis present a screening of her film J’ai pas sommeil, and it was there that I saw a favorite of mine, Rossellini’s Germany Year Zero, for the first time. 

Anyway, as I remember it, the thing that most impressed me with this film was Lang’s extraordinary inventiveness. I remember watching it and being in awe of all that he was doing for such an early film. It has a fairly complex narrative for a film of this era and just felt formally years ahead of other films I had seen from this period. I believe I’ve only seen it once, so it is a bit vague in my memory. But I remember it having a terrific finale as well, if I’m not mistaken.

What moviemakers can learn: Conviction is everything when it comes to winning over an audience. Even if you are in a position like Lang here, and your main character is pretty unlikeable, believe in them fully. That conviction will wear off and bring the audience to you.

Other contenders for 1933: My inspiration for doing these posts, Dave Hicks, has a film at the top of his list for this year that I’ve never seen. That film, The Bitter Tea of General Yen, is something I want to see as soon as possible. Other films I still need to see from this year are: Howard Hawks’ Today We Live, Alfred E. Green’s Baby Face, Mervyn LeRoy’s Gold Diggers of 1933 and Frank Borzage’s Man’s Castle. Of the films I’ve seen from this year, I remember Max Ophüls’ Liebelei having some of the greatest woods-and-snow cinematography in the history of film. And, I love Duck Soup. It’s one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen. I ultimately, though, decided to give the edge to the Lang film for its sheer formal innovation.

After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors. Goodman is now at work, raising money for his next feature, Peril.

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