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  • Devil Is a Woman [Import]
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Devil Is a Woman [Import]

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Product Details

  • Language: English, Spanish
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0783217498
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #182,802 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)

Customer Reviews

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By C. Tolley on March 19 2002
Format: VHS Tape
As this was the last of the seven Dietrich-Von Sternberg films to be released on video, I waited for quite some to see the film for the first time. I had read that this film was Dietrich's personal favorite because she never looked as beautiful. Having seen Shanghai Express, Desire, and most all her other films, that seemed to me to be stretching it a little. When Marlene makes her entrance in the carnival scene, my mouth dropped to the floor.Her face is sheer perfection.
Being primarily a visual film, don't look for an extremely deep plot or witty banter. The visuals alone make this film, and make this film worth seeing over and over. The atmosphere in this film is one of decadence, and that feeling of falling in love kamikaze-style that just can't be helped.
Many felt that Lionel Atwill was nothing more than a stand-in for Sternberg himself, and that this film reflected his obsession/love/frustration with Dietrich. Dietrich herself had no comment, other than "rubbish!"
I say, the truth of the matter is known only to very few, especially now, so long after the fact, but this film presents a relationship so tortured, so alluring, it's easy to compare the movie to real (?) life. The visual texture is so rich, so heavily veiled, many viewings are needed to see all in a scene. The costumes are outrageous, borderline camp, and only Dietrich herself could make them work, and they do. The photography is exquisite, with so much light and shadow that one could almost see it in color.
Finally, this film failed in its initial box-office run in the thirties, mainly due to the public's lack of sophistication, likely. Be that as it may, this film should used to teach cinematography to all film-makers today.
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Format: VHS Tape
I am not sure if I glimpsed this film when I was a child or not, but if there ws any US distributin before the film was pulled, I probably did. I saw all the Dietich films, long before I knew what they were about.
The crowd scene, the carnival scene that begins the film is one of the most amazing pieces of crowd conrol and deftly choreographed effects ever recorded. It is lengthy and sets the tone of the entire move, for much of the action of the film takes place in the form of flashbacks as two comrades -- one older and one younger -- talk about a 'Certain Woman.' She is the notorious beauty, Concha, played by Dietrich to perfection, in her version of the beauty of Dolores Del Rio.
This is one of those pictures which are really, 'events' in the sense that going to the ballet or witnessing an operatic performance is an 'event.' The detail work in every frame, every face, every costume, every shadow, every highlight on the thousands of baloons and streamers is precisely worked out with super-human skill, and all funciton as a pedestal for Dietrich's fantastic beauty. With this film, and this image, she changed the tradition of Hollywood Beauty to suit herself. Women did not look the same anymore because they did not want to look pre-Dietrich.
The story: A governmental functionary befriends a peasant girl while a train is trapped in a snowstorm. With the girl's mother, he becomes her 'sponsor.' Their relationship is stormy. She uses his money to gain her independence and becomes a successful cafe entertainer in another town. He follows her there and his passion is rekindled. He beats her into submission. Later, he offers to marry her. She avoids that, but manages to get him to buy out her contract with the theatre, and runs off with a handsome young bullfighter.
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Format: VHS Tape
"The Devil is a Woman" is a wholly artificial film, dealing with wholly artificial people, amidst wholly artificial surroundings. Like "The Scarlet Empress" with gothic Russia before it, "The Devil is a Woman" takes the simple idea of old Spain during carnival, and exaggerates it into a fantastic world choking itself with an impossible amount of streamers, confetti, and grotesquely constumed revelers. Essentially to Spanish to possibly be Spanish, the atmosphere created gives a richly textured visual feel. It becomes a costume as garish as those the Spanish people wear, disguising a series of complex and controversial themes, which could never be used as open plot devices. Director Josef von Sternberg is obviously aware of the conventions and restraints set up by Hollywood, twisting them to his own good. Using the illusion of a typical Hollywood story, he thinly but potently veils these visual costumes, which in themselves hide his rich themes, creating a film so layered its staggering!

At the center of all this is a Dietrich so beautiful, it is not quite possible to believe she ever existed outside this fantastic world created for her. Impeccably lighted, and costumed in the most flamboyant trappings imaginable, she is a toyingly evil creature of film, more alive than ever. Is it any wonder her character ruins so many men, on film alone you could fall in love with her?!
"The Devil is a Woman" is a completely visual film. It's themes and ideas do not come from what you hear, but what you see. The plot, which seems to hide them, is really needed only that these themes and visuals may gradually reach you. I think, essentially, that story for Sternberg was like the cherry flavor in cough medicine, designed only to help you swallow the truly important stuff. Perhaps we may never reach the center of a film like "The Devil is a Woman." If we did would we find the key to everything, or merely emptiness?
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