Liliom (1934)

LILIOM (1934)
Article 1893 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-21-2006
Posting Date: 10-18-2006
Directed by Fritz Lang
Featuring Charles Boyer, Madeleine Ozeray, Florelle

A young woman falls in love with a charismatic but brutish carnival man.

Forget CAROUSEL and the 1930 version of this movie; when I want to experience this one, I’m going with this version, even if my copy is in unsubtitled French. Why? Two words: Fritz Lang. With him at the helm, the story is a rich cinematic experience; many of the scenes are fascinating even if you don’t know understand the language, and some of them tell their parts of the story so well, language is unnecessary. The opening scene is just an example; the visuals, acting, body language and facial expressions are so vivid and informative you know exactly what’s going on in the scene. Another plus is Charles Boyer; to date, he is the only person I’ve seen in the Liliom role who brings it to life; just watching his reactions to various events makes the movie a joy, especially the scene where he learns that he’s going to be a father (which, I must admit, I was only able to figure out because I’ve seen other versions of the story). Lang doesn’t stint on the darkness of the story, which is a good thing, but he also pays attention to the romantic underpinnings of it all. He also remains the only director who has handled the movie with such aplomb that I’m willing to overlook my main objection to the story, which is that it comes a little too close romanticizing abusive behavior for my liking. It helps that we see Liliom’s own reaction to seeing himself slap Julie in flashback (during the afterlife sequence, the reason this movie qualifies for this series), and it also helps that when they get to the “slap that felt like a kiss” line, it’s in French so I don’t really know what’s being said. Maybe this is my way of saying that ignorance is bliss, and if it is, so be it. Still, I think I’d like this version of the movie with subtitles just as well. And the scene with the lawyer trying to stamp the papers is hilarious in any language.

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