Sunday, January 1, 2012

Pièges (1939)

Robert Siodmak directing Eric Von Stroheim in Pièges; Marie Déa's waiting.
In Pièges, directed by Robert Siodmak, Eric Von Stroheim is playing the role of a mad aristocrat - now a familiar persona of his acting career. He is giving a fashion show to an invisible audience, to ghosts. He lives in an imaginary social milieu which is decayed and out of time. Europe was at the verge of war when Pièges was made and one feels when Stroheim puts his house on fire and hysterically cries out about his “immortal genius”  Siodmak is anticipating the real horror that will break through Europe only within months.

Pièges is a typical Landru story, and thus with an impeccably French pedigree. […] According to the logic of time loop affecting the historical imaginary, Pièges should really have been made in Hollywood, and by Ernest Lubitsch […], because it illustrates to perfection the ‘miscognition’ factor of Austro-Germans as directors of Habsburg decadence or Parisian operetta, given the prominent presence of Pièges of both Eric Von Stroheim and Maurice Chevalier.”-- Thomas Elsaesser

Pièges also can be seen as an anticipation of American film noir and its fascination with modern Viennese psychology, when the serial killer asks the inspector “have you read Freud?”

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