Thursday, June 9, 2016

Order in the Court Blogathon: Pandora's Box:The Guilty Face in the Mirror

This is my entry in the Order in the Court Blogathon hosted by the criminally wonderful Lesley at Second Sight Cinema and Theresa at Cinemaven's ESSAYS from the Couch. Click HERE for more posts. It's so much fun, it feels like it should be illegal!

Pandora's Box

Guilty or innocent? Usually, that's what the jury must decide about the person on trial. But sometimes, the guilty are not placed in the witness box.

Ladies and Gentleman of the blog-reading public, look upon these men.

Upstanding men of the court and jury, all, and all are convinced that if a woman drives them nuts, it must be her fault. And so, in 1929's "Pandora's Box," the innocent becomes the guilty party.

Yes, Lulu is a tramp, and a darn good one. You see, she was raised for it by the odious Schigolch, the pimp who most likely is her loving pa. But, Lulu does not resist. In fact, she excels in the family business. So much so that she attracts the attention and lust and obsession of the middle-aged, oh-so-respectable Dr. Schon.  Truly, she brings out the beast in him.

The raging beast that is Schon’s shameful desire leads him to the conclusion that Lulu should kill herself and remove the temptation from his life. Girls and boys – you’re following this, right? But, Lulu accidentally shoots Shon in a struggle. Was it an accident? It appeared to be so, but, really, I don’t blame the girl if she sort of aimed the gun at his gut.

Her trial is a sham, but the court room scenes are brilliant. Lulu, looking like the innocent little hottie she is, pleads her case. But it is clear that those high-minded hypocrites only see Schon as a member of their boy’s club. They look in the mirror and recognize Schoen as one of them: established, respectable, a pillar of the community. Therefore, the tramp must be guilty. 

Director G.W. Pabst parades their misogyny for all to see and they are resolute. Lulu has her supporters: her lover, Alwa (Schon's son), the Countess Geschwitz who developed a real yen for Lulu, and other sundry past lovers and reprobates who live on the lower rungs of society. But, they are viewed as the undesirables, even though the pillars of society desire their prize, Lulu. She is sentenced to 5 years in prison for her crime, but her friends pay no heed to the law. The deck is stacked against them and they know it. They spirit Lulu away from the courthouse amid a false fire alarm and she and Alwa are helped out of the country by their friends. They eventually land in London, where Lulu, desperate, gets picked up by Jack the Ripper, another charming fellow.

Louise Brooks has been praised mightily for her performance, and rightfully so. She and Pabst create a pleasure-loving innocent who means no harm, but continues to be a lightening rod for bad things happening to bad (or at least questionable people. One can never be quite sure what is going on with Lulu. She is neither good not bad, innocent not guilty. She just is. She comes to her lovers as a blank piece of paper. Her story is written by the men who are disgusted with themselves by their desire for her. They look in the mirror and only see a victim, never a perp.


CineMaven said...

Thank you for your contribution to our blogathon, with the towering classic "PANDORA'S BOX." Why do I fear Louise Brooks? 'Cuz she feels like the most powerful woman in film in the 1920's. She feared no one. Why do I think she's going to get me and devour me? Irrational but sexy. Let me read your take on Lulu's biggest film. I can sneak up on her this way. Thanks again.


Caftan Woman said...

Yes, Lulu "just is". I think the first time I saw the film I expected something different from the character and was confused. It took further exploration to accept the upside down view of the world, which is the true one.

Steve Bailey said...

Boy, you knocked it out of the park on this one! Great summary of a classic movie!

CineMaven said...

Excellent write-up! This movie feels like it's ripped from our 21st century headlines, where women are the "reason" men cannot control themselves. I wonder if 1929 women secretly raised LOUISE on their collective shoulders...or further tamped down their sexual desires lest they be blamed for men's desires. Loved your essay!

Quiggy said...

Oh, now I just HAVE to see this one... good review.

Silver Screenings said...

Can't believe I STILL haven't seen this one!

I like the points you raised, about Lulu having to be the guilty one so all the "respectable" men can absolve themselves. How very handy. Some things never change, hey?

I also love how you said Lulu isn't guilty or innocent – she just is.

Great photos and a great post!

FlickChick said...

Theresa - thank you so much for hosting. And don't fear Louise - she was really just a little bit of a thing!

FlickChick said...

Thanks, CW - Pabst certainly paints a picture of an upside down world, one in which only the strong survive.

FlickChick said...

Steve Bailey -thanks so very much for your kind comment. In re-watching this scene, it really looked like something that could be seen on Law & Order SVU!

FlickChick said...

Thanks, Quiggy - it's a goody - you'll fall for Louise, I'm sure.

FlickChick said...

Ruth - I sure hope you can get around to this someday. I think it's one that gets better with age.


"She is neither good not bad, innocent not guilty. She just is." -> This line you've written. This is amazing!
Pandora's Box is a film with a feminist view, and a very good one. It is about misoginy, and about how women suffer for being free and doing what they want to do. It's a masterpiece, and your brilliant review made me want to rewatch the movie.
Thanks for your kind comment!

Bonnie said...

This looks good! Love how the film makers aren't afraid to reveal the world as it is: a good ol' boys club. And that ending--to escape only to be picked up by Jack the Ripper! Thank you for the warning. =)