Varieté, also known with its U.S. title Jealousy, is a German film of 1925 directed by Ewal André Dupont, produced by Erich Pommer, and photographed by one of the most important directors of photography in Weimar's films, Karl Freund -who had already shown much talent in the past with Der Golem (Paul Wegener, 1920) or Der letzte Mann (F.W. Murnau, 1924), and would continue to do so later in Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1926) or Dracula (Tod Browning, 1931), as well as in some Hollywood gems he would direct like The Mummy (1932, starring Boris Karloff) or Mad Love (1935, starring Peter Lorre)-. Even though at the time, the movie genre in which it is traditionally located (noir cinema) was still not recognized as such -this would not happen until two decades later-, everything; the topics, the type of characters, and the kind of techniques applied (including lighting and scenery, all very novel at that time) in the movie; have made it a classic and unavoidable reference to all the fans of the thrillers immediately previous to the arrival of sound cinema.
The argumentative anecdote in which the plot supports comes from a novel by Felix Hollaender, Der Eid des Stephan Huller, and tells a quite topical and predictable story: "Boss" Huller (played by a magnificent Emil Jannings) is the owner of a trapeze artists school in Hamburg that falls in love with an acrobat much younger than him, Bertha (played by Lya de Putti), abandoning his family and moving to Berlin to create a new show together with his young lover and the tightrope walker Antinelli (Warwick Ward). This professional trio becomes pretty early a love triangle, where the jealousies lead to the death of Antinelli and the imprisonment of Boss, who after confessing the crime to his wife, surrenders to police.
At the beginning of the movie, a few years have passed and Boss has requested his pardon. The history is read by the prison director who finally grants freedom to the repentant prisoner.
This typical and conventional "happy ending" does not prevent us from enjoying the film's main attractions: the brilliant use of the subjective camera, which becomes a character itself within the story, or the editing of the movie that acts as an announcing subject, making it unnecessary use explanative intertitles as supports in sequences such as the one of the trapeze artists in action, where we can see them from the point of view of the other characters, or even reflected in the glasses of the spectators (a technique that was already established by Freund himself the year before with great success). The director, who would later succeed with Piccadilly (1929) before finally disappearing into oblivion, really had not much margin of maneuver due to the strict control of Pommer and the freedom the producer gave to the director of photography. Nevertheless, he managed to build a more than notable film that provided at the same time the feeling of being documentary of the city, and of a country in post-war depression. All of this makes Varieté a gem and rarity representing the final years of the European silent cinema.
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