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Film / Pandora's Box

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Pandora's Box (Die Büchse der Pandora) is a 1929 German silent film, directed by G.W. Pabst and starring Louise Brooks.

The film centers around Lulu, a sexually uninhibited young woman in Berlin. Lulu is the mistress of newspaper publisher Dr. Ludwig Schön. Dr. Schön comes to tell her that they must break off their affair because he has gotten engaged to Charlotte von Zarnikow, the Minister of the Interior's daughter. Lulu refuses to accept this, but when Dr. Schön meets Schigolch, an unsavory old man who appears to be her old pimp, he stalks out of her apartment.

Meanwhile Lulu has made friends with Dr. Schön's son Alwa, and Alwa's friend Countess Augusta Geschwitz, both of whom clearly have feelings for Lulu. Lulu is hired as a dancer in the musical show that Alwa is staging, but when Dr. Schön arrives with his fiancee, she refuses to dance. Dr. Schön tries to force her to perform, they kiss, and Charlotte sees them kissing. Lulu, triumphant, winds up marrying Dr. Schön herself—but things do not turn out well.

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G.W. Pabst had tried to borrow Brooks from Paramount, where she was under contract, but the studio had refused. Eventually Brooks broke her contract and went to Europe to make the movie. It briefly made her a star, and Pabst followed up with another film starring Brooks, Diary of a Lost Girl. However, she was blackballed in Hollywood and her career tanked in The '30s. Pandora's Box is remembered today as one of the last great silent movies, with an attitude towards sexuality that was decades ahead of its time. It's one of the oldest movies listed in Danny Peary's book "Cult Movies"

John Zorn, George Lewis and Bill Frisell released two albums, News for Lulu (1988) and More News for Lulu (1992), which featured Lulu from the film on the album cover.


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Tropes:

  • Blood from the Mouth: Dr. Schön, after he's shot with his own gun.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Meeting Jack the Ripper on the streets of London qualifies.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: The Countess is clearly in love with Lulu. This was a very early (probably the first) depiction of lesbianism in film.
  • A Foggy Day in London Town: The story ends with Lulu meeting Jack the Ripper on the Ominous Fog-bound streets of London. On Christmas Eve, no less.
  • Fixing the Game: Alwa is getting cleaned out at the gambling table, so Schigolch gives him some cards to put up his sleeve. It works—until Alwa's caught.
  • The Flapper: Lulu, with her short bob haircut, slinky dresses, and open sexuality, is a Trope Maker.
  • Foreshadowing: Dr. Schön resigns himself to marrying Lulu, saying "It will be the death of me!" It is.
  • Gun Struggle: This happens after Dr. Schön snaps and demands Lulu kill herself.
  • High-Class Glass: Dr. Schön sports one of these.
  • Hope Spot: The Ripper is so enchanted by Lulu that he drops his knife. But as she nuzzles up against him in her little trick pad, he sees another knife on the table. So he kills her.
  • Ominous Fog: Lulu meets Jack the Ripper on a foggy London evening.
  • Really Gets Around: Lulu likes to sleep around, and she doesn't feel bad about it.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: Lulu wears one for the stage show.
  • Streetwalker: Lulu's fate after she, Alwa, and Schigolch have been reduced to poverty in a dirty London garret.
  • Title Drop: The prosecutor in her trial says that Lulu is like Pandora, luring men with her beauty but bringing evil.
  • Translation Convention: A poster, on the streets of London, in German.
  • The Un-Reveal: Just what is Schigolch's relationship with Lulu? Her father? (She claims this in one scene.) Her pimp? Both?
  • The Vamp: Lulu uses her sexuality to manipulate Dr. Schön, Alwa, and even the Countess, whom she strongarms into seducing a man.
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