2006 marks the 100th anniversary of Louise Brooks’s birth. It’s been
celebrated by the release of a cool new picture book about the star,
“Louise Brooks: Lulu Forever”, by Peter Cowie, and a special DVD
edition of her most famous film, “Pandora’s Box”, put out by Criterion,
with lots of extras.
Brooks was, like Garbo, a creature who had her being on film — her way
of moving through cinematic space could transcend the films that tried
to contain her, transcend the normal conventions of “screen acting”.
Early in her career she played second lead in a mediocre comedy called
“The Show Off”. She doesn’t seem to be part of the film at all — she
looks like someone who has wandered onto the set while the cameras were
rolling and decided to stay and observe the curious behavior of the
people around her. She appears to have found this behavior only
vaguely amusing, and in this delivers a wise critique of the film from
within the film itself. The effect is bizarre.
G. W. Pabst used her uncanny mixture of detachment and sensuality to
brilliant effect in “Pandora’s Box” — he was one of the few directors
who seems to have realized that a film had to defer to her phenomenal
screen persona or risk evaporating around her. It’s a film you should
watch at least once this year.
Happy birthday, Lulu.