What is this--a vaudeville sketch of bad film acting, misnamed avant-garde?
A fever dream of sex, violence, and grotesqueness. An impressionist sketch of infinite riches in a squalid little room.
If some Lubitsch comedies are operettas minus the singing, The Scarlet Empress is unsung grand opera: a vestigial plot and a purely nominal basis in history, serving as a pretext for a series of star turns of the highest order. It's demented, and as in the operatic world, I intend that as the highest praise possible. If I knew more about 20th century music, I would lament that someone didn't collaborate with von Sternberg to give this work the musical setting it deserves.