Our first encounter with this film of G.W. Pabst’s has, at times, been engaging at best and at worst tedious. This story from a novel by Ilya Ehrenberg begins in the Russian Crimea at the time of the Bolshevik revolution.
Alfred Ney, a French political observer (and spy), and his daughter Jeanne have spent several years living in Russia. He has been collecting evidence against the rising Bolshevik movement. A young leader of the movement, Andreas, confronts Ney about his espionage, and Ney is killed. It is revealed that Andreas and Ney’s daughter independently found each other and fell in love. The Bolsheviks takeover. Jeanne is tried, but shipped off to Paris through the intervention of a favor. She arrives in Paris to live with her detective uncle and her blind cousin. (Our introduction to the detective’s office is not unlike the beginning of Roman Polanski’s Chinatown.)
The montebank Khalibiev arrives in Paris. Andreas shortly follows. Khalibiev works his way into the Ney household and his impromptu plot to murder for money is revealed. The subplot focusing on the retrieval of a large lost diamond is comical. Detective Ney’s greed and oncoming dementia eventually ends in his being killed for the diamond. Khalibiev weaves back into the story to set up Andreas for the murder of Ney, using the blind girl as a ‘witness.’ Jeanne valiantly attempts to proves Andreas’ innocence. She seeks out Khalibiev who can substantiate Andreas’ whereabouts the night of the murder. During Khalibiev’s attempted rape of Jeanne, she discovers the stolen diamond in his possession and reveals him as the murderer.
This film plays to us as something less than Pabst’s earlier The Joyless Street (1925) and nothing close to the qualities of Pandora’s Box (1929). There is not even a spark to the love story, which is the point of the entire film. Certainly, Fritz Rasp’s performance as the smarmy Khalibiev is among the best elements of this otherwise turgidly melodramatic film.
Pabst’s short-sighted skeet shooting at political trap misses the mark, and the studio imposed diamond subplot further serves to throw the film off focus. But that doesn’t mean that there is nothing worthwhile to be seen in the film. Metropolis’ Brigitte Helm turns in a good performance in the second film of her career as the blind cousin to Jeanne.
Pabst’s handheld camera makes several bold appearances, and Pabst’s dramatic changes in focal points within a moving camera frame are among the high technical points of the film. Some shots of the two lovers are absolutely exquisite, and we love the candid scenes documenting street life in Paris. We also enjoyed seeing the main character of Überfall (1928), pop-eyed Heinrich Gotho, here as a timepiece-holding train passenger. Again, the film can be in turns tedious and engaging. — Carl Bennett
Kino International, K208, UPC 7-38329-02082-8.
One single-sided, single-layered, Region 0NTSC DVD disc, 1.33:1 aspect ratio image in full-frame 4:3 (720 x 480 pixels) interlaced scan MPEG-2 format, 5 Mbps average video bit rate, 224 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 16 chapter stops; standard DVD keepcase, $29.95.
Release date: 5 June 2001.
Country of origin: USA
This DVD edition from Kino International, produced by David Shepard, features a video transfer from what appears (from the English language intertitles) to be an old Blackhawk Films 35mm print. The print appears to be a little tightly cropped at times but is a very-good to sometimes excellent print, with broad and balanced greytones. The print is compromised with minor speckling, dust, scratches, scuffing and processing flaws intermittently throughout, and also has a vertical scratch in the left edge of the frame that begins at 1:18:27 and continues for nearly two minutes.
A sombre music score composed by Timothy Brock, somewhat reminiscent of his later score for the 1998 home video edition of Sunrise (1927), accompanies the film. Performed by the Olympia Chamber Orchestra and conducted by Brock, the accompaniment was recorded for the edition’s first release on videotape in 1993.
We certainly recommend this edition of The Love of Jeanne Ney if you are familiar with the film and are a Pabst fan. The transfer is very good and the music appropriate and supportive. If you have not seen the film, try to rent it before a purchase to determine its collectable value to you.
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
United Kingdom: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.co.uk. Your purchase supports Silent Era.