Film - Feature | December 15 | 6-7:30 p.m. | Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
A powerful study of that enduring status symbol, the uniform, and a piercing critique of its importance in German society, The Last Laugh is the story of a proud hotel doormans demotion to lavatory attendant and his fall from grace in the eyes of neighbors and relatives who had previously respected him. Working in close collaboration with writer Carl Mayer, cameraman Karl Freund, and actor Emil Jannings, F. W. Murnau fashioned a genuine tragedy out of this simple tale, translated into a remarkable film language in which the characters turmoil is expressed through multiple imagery and Janningss expressionist use of gestures, which made intertitles virtually unnecessary. The film, which brought international recognition to the German cinema of the twenties, is justly famous as a showcase for Freunds new camera-on-wheels, for which it was specifically designed. As the camera dollies through hotel lobbies and corridors and out into the shimmering night, following prolonged stretches of continuous action, one still marvels at the unity of this film whose final shape was clearly determined before, not after, shooting.
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