July 24, 2013

Marlene Dietrich, Morocco

 photo ScreenShot2013-07-18at112158PM.jpg I saved Marlene Dietrich's performance for last in this profiled year primarily for two reasons: because she's Marlene Dietrich, and because it's the only performance of hers to have been nominated for an Oscar. So I sort of put it off hoping it'd be some sort of quasi "event". Having said that, I can sum up Dietrich's performance in less than five words: at least she's pretty.

 photo ScreenShot2013-07-18at113153PM.jpg Morocco is one of the most dreadfully uninteresting films I've had the displeasure to sit through in recent memory. Like, it was horrifyingly boring. So boring that minutes would go by and I could have sworn it was longer. So boring that I was pissed off for the last hour because I wanted it to end and yet it kept going. Aside from the fact that Dietrich and Gary Cooper were young and beautiful and nice to look at...there's really not much else going on for it. How everyone involved managed to botch a romance set in an exotic locale starring two attractive stars is beyond me. From her entrance in the film, Dietrich looks and sounds bored and sedated. We the viewers are supposed to buy this as some sort of "she's-been-through-a-lot-life-has-been-tough-on-her" deal, but to be frank it just felt like she was bad at acting.

 photo ScreenShot2013-07-19at123625AM.jpgThere were moments when I was questioning whether or not I bought her French accent. She has some pretty terrible line deliveries ("I only feel so light to you, because your arms are so powerful..."). It didn't matter whether Amy was flirting or sad or angry--Dietrich's face just read stale overall. In fact, I'd gotten so annoyed halfway through the film because there didn't seem to be any emotion at all on her part, and it looked as if she was just coasting along for a paycheck. I get that Amy Jolley's tepidness is due in part because of the things that may have happened to her in the past, but seeing as we're never really told anything about her past makes for an especially frustrating viewing experience. Whereas Garbo was able to lace her reaction shots with copious amounts of emotion in her melodramas, Dietrich's only looked like blank stares. There is a moment in the film when Dietrich believes Cooper has come back to town, and it was the best moment of her performance as it was the only time she seemed to show any life in her! Even the most famous parts of the film, that in which Dietrich dresses up as a man, sings onstage, and kisses a woman, were really underwhelming (she sucks at singing and her lesbian kiss was filmed in long shot so one couldn't see much anyways). I found it funny that the audience and Gary Cooper are supposed to be enraptured by her on stage and yet her personality (and stage presence) was equal to that of a dead fish's.

All in all, this is a horribly unfortunate performance to have as your sole Oscar-nominated role. It's almost just as tragic that this was my first Dietrich film I've seen in its entirety. This is a performance that is forgettable and so tough to sit through--yes, the character's fatigued, but it is in turn fatiguing to watch. I sort of feel bad about giving it such a low rating, but to rate it any more would mean that I enjoyed it somewhat, and there was not a single minute of this performance that I enjoyed.

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