Variety ★★★★½

Oh how I love silent films and oh, how I love Weimar silent films in particular, it's just so rare these days that I get to see anything as such that's really brilliant and totally unknown to me, but that was very much the case with E. A. Dupont's Varieté

Varieté had been intended as a project for F W Murnau reuniting him with Emil Jannings after their ground breaking Der letzte Mann. Set in the backstage world of acrobats and trapeze artistes it's probably the closest approximation we have to Murnau's later, lost Hollywood film Four Devils. Jannings' range in his silent films is quite phenomenal (even if here he's a little too chubby for a trapeze performer) and it's hard to believe this is the same man as the Hotel doorman in Der letzte Mann, the Devil in Faust, the general in The Last Command or the Professor in Der blaue Engel it's just a shame he was also a Nazi...

E. A. Dupont specialised in this kind of backstage story and the two late silents he made in Britain Piccadilly and Moulin Rouge (not to be confused with any of the various other Moulin Rogues) are also well worth checking out. Given his predilection for show business stories I find it rather surprising that he doesn't seem to have used the subject in any of his talkies, which in the early days of sound were replete with such musicals. In fact in the sound era his career, like so many of his contemporaries, went into a terminal decline.

The story is a fairly run-of-the-mill love triangle with Jannings ultimately snapping and killing his rival, but the direction and photography set the film well above the average. The camera work is phenomenal building on the unchained camera techniques developed in Der letzte Mann.

A word of warning you probably want to avoid the score by “The Tiger Lillies” (I certainly did) fortunately the Masters of Cinema blu ray has two far more appropriate alternatives.

Jumpingfrog liked these reviews