The Scarlet Empress (Josef von Sternberg, 1934)
I impose to myself many obligations or discipline; I want ot see the entire list of Masterpiece of Mediafilm, They Shoot Pictures Don't They? 1000 Greatest films, AFI's 100, Bfi polls, etc. The Scarlet Empress is one of the films that was initially on the first list of films I ever read; Mediafilm's Masterpieces! To me it was like finding the klondike, I had only seen three or four films of this list and I was dreaming of the hundred and thirty others.
With great expectations I sat in front of my television to discover my first von Sternberg film and my third Marlene Dietrich movie. An interesting story about how Catherine II got the power in Russia in the XVIIIth century. Populated with gothic statues and overacting The Scarlet Empress has an unique touch of madness and movement. Madness for the first sequences where Russia is described as near as hell with some female breasts on the screen (remember that you are reading about a 1934 film!) and many scenes of simulated torture. Movement, because all along the film the editing is very fast and there is always something moving on the screen. I was surprised by the freshness the film had, von Sternberg has a vibrant approach. I'm looking forward to see more of his work very soon because I know he is an important filmmaker of the early days of Cinema.
The Scarlet Empress was probably a big spectacle for its time like a Cecil B. De Mille or a David W. Griffith film, not like a James Cameron one... Instead of Cameron; De Mille, Griffith, and von Sternberg have spirit and deepness and it's reflected into their films.