EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|SPECTER OF THE ROSE (director/writer: Ben Hecht; cinematographer: Lee Garmes; editor: Harry Keller; music: George Antheil; cast: Judith Anderson (Madame La Sylph), Michael Chekhov (Max Polikoff), Ivan Kirov (Andre Sanine/Paul Dixon), Viola Essen (Haidi), Lionel Stander (Lionel Gans), George Shdanoff (Kropotkin), Charles 'Red' Marshall (Specs McFarlan), Juan Panalle (Jibby), Lew Hearn (Mr. Lyons), Ferike Boros (Mamochka), Bill Gray (Jack Jones); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Ben Hecht/Lee Garmes; Republic Pictures Home Video; 1946)|
ballet melodrama that distinguishes itself by its brilliant
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Writer Ben Hecht ("Angels Over Broadway"/"Soak The Rich"/"The
Scoundrel") tries his hand
at directing, in this cynical serio-comic
ballet melodrama that distinguishes itself by its brilliant dialogue
and ability to blend together kitsch art with a wild-eyed film noir
tale. It offers memorable acerbic lines such as 'the masses would never
get married if the poets didn't tell them how beautiful it is,' 'art
itself is a miracle,' and 'love is a seasonal thing among artists.'
It opens with the untruthful smarmy theatrical
producer Max "Poli" Polikoff
(Michael Chekhov) visiting the
world-weary ballet instructor Madame La Sylph (Judith Anderson) in her dinghy
studio to discuss his plan to stage
a new showing of The Specter of the Rose in the spring starring Andre
Sanine (Ivan Kirov), the former
Paul Dixon from Indiana, the brilliant lead dancer of her ballet
troupe. For the last seven months Andre has become a basket case,
remaining alone in his room while in bed and saying he killed his
ballerina wife Nina with a knife when he became possessed while dancing
the ballet of The Specter of the Rose.
nursed back to health by a fawning admirer of his genius, Haidi
(Viola Essen). She's the young ballerina studying under
La Sylph. This budding romance pleases
Poli, who promises to get a rich patron of the arts as a backer if
Andre is available to dance the lead.
at the dance studio is homicide detective Specs
'Red' Marshall) with the brash
bohemian poet Lionel Gans (Lionel
Stander), who is crushed Haidi
ignores him and runs after Andre. Lionel brought the cop along to
question Andre about his wife's death. The jealous spurned poet has
told the cop that the mentally unbalanced Andre confessed killing his
wife, even though her uninvestigated death was written off as a heart
attack. After the cop questions members of the ballet troupe and Andre,
he decides not to make an arrest.
The peculiar and intense
schizophrenic Andre while sitting with Haidi in a bourgeois hotel lobby
tells her: 'Press yourself against me so hard
that you're tattooed on to me.' With that they're married, which
troubles La Sylph because she knows the mad genius
dancer killed his wife and presents a danger to his new wife. La Sylph covered up for
Andre when he had ongoing severe headaches and hallucinations. Andre's
problems started when he smelled the rose and the music filtered
through strange voices in his head that made him act his fanciful stage
role in real life, turning him into a killer as the lines of fiction
and reality became blurred.
company goes on a successful international tour performing the
new ballet, but the troupe is haunted by Andre's insanity returning and
placing his sweet partner in harm's way.
brings art to the Republic studio, known for making artless
actions pics that please the masses. It has a very funny blend of
culture and soap opera story telling, that's richly flavored by the
world of ballet and the artsy-fartsy crowd that reside in that world.
It's a one-of-kind film that I enjoy seeing again and again over the
years, without ever tiring of its pretenses.
REVIEWED ON 1/20/2011 GRADE: A
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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