The Devil is a Woman (1935) – Josef von Sternberg

 

The final pairing of von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich is this film, and it is also the final recommendation from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book for my screening of The Blue Angel.

This time around, Dietrich, who plays Concha Perez, is nothing but trouble. And, she doesn’t even get any proper comeuppance by film’s end. Grrr.

Concha exploits and uses men, something we learn through flashback, as her latest target, Antonio (Cesar Romero – immediately recognizable by his mustache) sits down and chats with an old friend, Pasqualito (Lionel Atwill). As the older man begins to recount his tale, we learn how exploitative and manipulative she is.

Concha will bat eyes, and allow for some initial romantic overtures, but only until she gets what she wants, be it money, papers, a place to live, or getting out of a job she hates and then she will vanish, or make herself completely unavailable until she needs something again.

And yet, Pasqualito, and others keep coming back.

He reaches a point, when he catches Concha with another man, and it’s implied that he beats her. That makes him no better than her for that moment, but then, she turns around and shows up at his place the next morning, all coy and manipulating again.

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It’s hard to like any of the characters in this film, the guys keep coming back for more, and Concha keeps on exploiting and hurting them.

No one can have her, but everyone can be hurt by her.

For the time, this collection of work from von Sternberg and Dietrich was probably controversial,and even now, some of the scenes, moments and characters resonate, but on the whole, these aren’t films that I really enjoyed.

And while we’re at it, I don’t understand her eyebrows. I’ve never understood the appeal of penciled in eyebrows. She’s a competent actress, something I recognize because I don’t like Concha at all, and I realize that is on her performance.

Once again, I do like the way that von Sternberg has put his film together, and the use of flashbacks, and the set design are all great, I love the way it looks, it’s just the story, or at least the characters, that annoyed me.

Still, that brings the first entry in the Romance and Melodrama section of the book to an end, and from here, we jump forward a chapter, and I’ll be taking on a round of musicals in the very near future.

That could be fun. I’m sure there will be some catchy tunes.

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