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Sunday, December 20, 2009

GESCHLECHT IN FESSELN / SEX IN CHAINS (1928)

In this late silent German film, the story line lives up to the provocative title, but the director, Wilhelm Dieterle early in his career, isn’t able to integrate the stylistic flourishes he attempts. There’s enthusiasm, but not much control. Even so, the subject matter is so surprising for 1928, that you can’t help but be drawn in. Dieterle, who would go to Hollywood and become an Oscar winning William, stars as an over-protective husband who punches a drunk who is flirting with his wife at a nightclub. The man dies of his fall and during a three-year manslaughter sentence, the couple each succumb to their pent-up sexual needs. She gives in to her insistent boss while Dieterle finds not just sex, but a deep, affectionate love with a prison-mate. The film is largely a cri de coeur advocating conjugal visits, but it’s still pretty unexpected material, even for Weimar Germany. The restored print is in good shape, but you can significantly reduce ‘blasting’ on the faces if you dial down your brightness & contrast levels. Improving the sub-par piano score is not so easily resolved.

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