The Austrian Secret Service sends its most seductive agent to spy on the Russians. (imdb)
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Extremely well made but unexciting spy drama represents something of a milestone in the Von Sternberg-Dietrich canon as it's more polished and confidently made than their previous two films, but the question remains whether there is any real depth to be mined here outside of its obvious aesthetic appeal. Dietrich plays the femme fatale like it's second nature, and there are some strong images, especially the use of a spotlight and silhouettes, but it's debatable whether it adds up to much.
A fun cat-and-mouse spy thriller, swiftly paced and elevated by the combined luster of Sternberg's visual ingenuity and Dietrich's sheer presence. She laments the militaristic nationalism at which she so excels, and longs for a time when she "served [her] countrymen and not [her] country" as a lover rather than a killer. A prostitute imbued with this level of principled agency is subversive of the moral elite who insisted, over Sternberg's objections, that this film be titled as such.
I'll blame initially not realizing that Dietrich was playing a hooker on generational differences, but the rest of this is pretty bad. Sternberg can't get enough of watching Dietrich's face or flirt playfully & those scenes go on way too long. Story-wise the whole secret code via piano notes feels ridiculous & Dietrich's ice-cold persona leaves it very unclear that dropping the gun was purposeful rather than clumsiness. & valorizing a national traitor for "love" (lust actually) is juvenile.
A basic spy plot with an unbelievable romance that betrays the strength and independence of Dietrich's character. That said, there are so many great shots with pre-noir, shadow-rich lighting, and Dietrich gets to branch out a bit.
I'm not sure why but this movie did nothing for me. Almost none of it worked and I just couldn't really get into it.
|Average Percentile 65.45% from 140 Ratings|