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Joyless Street Movie Review

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When Greta Garbo came to Hollywood with director Mauritz Stiller, she was streamlined, plucked, garbed, and coiffured to MGM perfection, whether or not it suited the role she was playing. This was not the case in G.W. Pabst's Joyless Street, where Garbo looked exactly like what she was supposed to be: a gauche and rather awkward young woman, still living at home with her father Josef (Jaro Furth) and little sister Rosa (Loni Nest). Greta gets a job, but soon finds herself fighting off the advances of her employer. Under such circumstances, she begins to consider prostitution at the urging of Frau Griefer (Valeska Gert). Much of the narrative focuses on the character played by Asta Nielsen (1883–1972), then seven films away from her 1932 swan song after a career that began in 1910. Fed up with unemployment, she HAS become a prostitute, but becomes dangerously obsessed with one of her clients, who eventually discards her. Meanwhile, hefty butcher Josef Geiringer (Werner Krauss) refuses to serve the long line of hungry people who wait in vain for a scrap of meat to bring home to their families. ("I have meat,” he taunts them, “But not for you!") Audiences of the late 1920s (the film didn't reach America until 1927 when Garbo was already an international star) found Pabst's vision of post-war Vienna to be too decadent and too grim. Over the years, the picture has acquired a reputation among Pabst admirers who consider Joyless Street to be one of his finest films. It certainly shows why Vienna would be so vulnerable to a German takeover the following decade. Ground down by World War I, Vienna was no longer the glittering capitol it had been in the 19th century. It had become a city of contrasts: newly rich men and women courtesy of the black market versus poverty-stricken families devastated by the war. Pabst lays bare that contrast by cutting from bold images of booze-soaked nightclubs to close-ups of starving people in doorways, shivering in the cold night air. We may have been on a collision course with a worldwide Depression, but no one wanted to face it in a movie theatre yet. Edited by Anatol Litvak and based on a novel by Hugo Battauer. AKA: Street of Sorrow; Die Freudlosse Gasse.

1925 96m/B GE Greta Garbo, Werner Krauss, Asta Nielson, Jaro Furth, Loni Nest, Max Kohlhase, Silva Torf, Karl Ettlinger, Ilka Gruning, Agnes Esterhazy, Alexander Musky, Valeska Gert; D: G.W. Pabst; W: Willi Haas; C: Guido Seeber, Curt Oertel, Walter Robert Lach. VHS, LV

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