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August 04, 2007

A Scandal in Paris

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Douglas Sirk - 1946
Kino Video Region 1 DVD

The real life of Eugene Francois Vidocq appears have been more exciting than the version of Vidocq in A Scandal in Paris. What may have interested Douglas Sirk was not the biographical aspects. A key moment that defines Sirk's theme comes near the end of the film when a former detective shoots his wife, thinking she was with another man when he sees her in the window, in shadow, with a mannequin. Setting aside the fanciful presentation of 19th Century France, what A Scandal in Paris is really about is the differences between people as they are, and how they are imagined to be.

Earlier in the film, George Sanders and Akim Tamiroff have escaped from prison. Found sleeping in front of a church, they are hire by a painter who has been commissioned to restore a painting of St. George and the dragon. Sanders poses as St. George because of his appearance of innocence. Signe Hasso falls in love with the image of Sanders as the saint. Even after meeting Sanders, and acknowledging his criminal life, Hasso expresses her belief that the image of Sanders and the real man would eventually be the same.

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Deeper examinations of Sirk's themes can be found by Tom Ryan and Tag Gallagher, among others. Even viewed simply for its value as entertainment, there is Carole Landis doing her best faux Dietrich, and Sanders exchanging witticisms with the rest of the cast. Sanders seemed born to toss out bon mots like, "Women always surprise us by doing the expected." Several other German emigres contributed to the film including composer Hanns Eisler, cinematographer Eugene Shufftan, and editor Albrecht Joseph. While watching the film from a sixty year distance evoked for me the loss of a time when it was less uncommon to for a films to have dialogue actually worth listening to, what A Scandal in Paris may have meant especially for the people behind the camera was a look back at a world they once knew that was now irretrievably lost.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at August 4, 2007 12:27 PM