The Broken Jug

The Broken Jug

The unfortunate downside to personal taste is that, much as we want our favorite movies, shows, music, games, etc. to be as individualistic as possible, there's gonna be some overlap between personal taste and the taste of people you or I can consider enemies, be that a person bluntly not understanding the core messages and themes of a work and savoring its surface-level aspects (there was some far-right dilweed I saw that praised BioShock and agreed with Andrew Ryan's Randian ideologies and abject hatred of the "parasites" of the world in spite of, you know, the first two games being a romp around the post-civilization disaster land that Rapture became that demonstrated Ryan was a little flawed in HOW you put a city in the ocean, god those are good games) or just merely enjoying it as an act of pleasure that rubs our pleasure the wrong way, a person you don't like having fondness for things you do like always creates a pit in the stomach that's difficult to shake off. The reason for this could stem from righteous satisfaction over the pursuit of distinction, a symbolic association of separation of cultures and classes to make us feel better when compared to those we believe are beneath us, which is you don't feel bad finding out your best friend loves a movie you love but things get awkward when your redneck uncle (or, if this isn't applicable, substitute for your least favorite family member) loves a movie you love, straining your own relationship and making you wonder if you or the movie are at fault for finding warm affections in the first place. It can be an absurd thing to take that much stock in, your path in finding meaning in a work of art is vastly different from the path someone you hate took in getting to the same destination, and can usually just be written off as mere coincidence of taste that matters mostly in how one expresses that love, whether that be normal or, y'know, "weird", and this usually shouldn't be a REAL problem, but when you encounter a movie that was reportedly one of, if not the, favorite movie of infamous genocidal dictator Adolf Hitler, yeah that just feels icky no matter how ya slice that shit. The Broken Jug, I guess thankfully, is not really anyone else's favorite movie, and is more notable for landing in the midpoint of Emil Jannings' post-Hollywood career as a Nazi Cinema star, being the unyielding hero promoting the worldviews and ideologies of the Nazi Party and fucking up any chances he would have of being a movie star post-'45 on account of Hitler not winning the war. While Jannings will eventually earn more respectful coverage through me eventually covering a good chunk of the filmography of Josef von Sternberg (which will happen shortly after I find the motivation to watch...anything, hoo booy this month has been rough), but for now good lord Hitler had bad taste in movies.

Over the course of a slow 80 minutes, Judge Adam must prove he is fit for his role as judge by presiding over a case of a broken jug, of which he demonstrably proves he's unqualified through sheer incompetence. One could see this as the most basic of morality tales, that of arrogance causing a man of power to act uncontrollably, slap his female maids for arbitrary reasons, wanting to get a simple case done as quick as possible to attend to personal needs not watched over by the man that can inflict further justice, it's as minimal in its satire as you can get, a man of power can abolish all known laws of democracy to his whim and the public, i.e. the victim of the broken jug, seeking to inflict swift punishment on a "guilty before proven innocent" principle with the barest of law and order holding together, everyone fumbles the bag through personal gain (a witness who knows who broke the jug holding her tongue through threats of her boyfriend being sent to death in India being a more noble, though still selfish, act of self-advantage) and it's up to an arbiter above all laws to help untangle all this. Now what HITLER saw in this I'm not really sure, maybe he though himself the ideal role of the high commissioner having to step in and correct the mindless oppressed lawlessness of the land and he thought that shit was relatable (I don't really wanna step into the mind of a Nazi today, can someone else do that for me?), but regardless it's the type of morality tale that doesn't really have much to say some 85 years later (shit, 215 years later if counting the play), the details of the matter feel very impotent in the wake of other films since then able to grasp the idea of corruption and flawed self-preservation in the name of justice with much more gusto and thoughtfulness, this is very much an attempt to breeze by an audience and get them amused without making them think much besides considering the slight charms and messages that happen to be stapled on, and that makes the film boring, but not detestable, unless again of course there's some hidden pro-Nazi brownie points hidden here that I didn't bother with decoding for obvious reasons.

In a review I did for Heckler, Jamie Kennedy's crappy documentary (please like that review I spent too much time into that one), I noted that if one is unable to latch onto the basic genre hooks of a given film, a broad specification that can land in either laughs, thrills, chills, etc., a person is not gonna be very willing to examine too closely the larger themes it may hide to begin with, and for this film the hook is that it's a tragicomedy, leaning on comedy, and godDAMN this fuckin' blows as a comedy, or anything even resembling comedic structure, it takes 10 fucking minutes for the film to truly start as we watch the film pad itself with several figures going about in a large clock while Jannings futzs about, scratches his club foot, pokes at the gash on the back of his fuckin' head, the film likes to waste time as the most it gets to any sort of comedic conversation is to loudly shout at each other over the simplicity of this stupid-ass crime, no wordplay, no clever turns of events, the film plays out exactly as you'd figure and as such becomes not a comedy of errors, but a progression of errors, limping slowly as conflicts explode in static frustration and the main shtick is that Jannings hams it up in terms of how terrible he is as a judge, never varying on this single note and falling flat every single time. I realize there's not exactly much meat in saying "comedy bad" without going into the specifics of why exactly it doesn't work for me, but I just don't understand what type of humor it's going for and, moreover, what it's doing for the film besides making it a brainless excursion, it's plainly-directed, it has no verve, no energy, there's nothing to this film besides bland lessons and exhausting entertainment to fill the void and 80 minutes really felt exasperating here, this is one of those films that immediately started to leave my brain just because of how done with it I was early on and, yeah that probably reflects on a shittier review (fuckin oops), but the most fatal flaw a film can be is forgettable, and to be both forgettable and an annoying pain in the ass to watch seeing Jannings flail around trying to get Broken Jug lady to stop describing the dramatized scenes now missing in her jug or the dogpile the town makes on the real culprit is truly deserving of scorn on my part.

What ended up leading me to cover The Broken Jug, against better judgement, is the age-old question "Can bad people create great art?", a debate which, if you've known me, is something I've wound up tackling numerous times, even at the start of me cracking my egg to fulfill desires of being a better writer through What's Up, Tiger Lily?, and as such is one I felt best to save for last since my opinions are well-documented and will inevitably pop up again in the future (I instead want to refer, then, to the thought experiments from Armando, Ethan, ANNA, and especially Nick in regards to their own search for answers). For simplicity's sake I think it's contextual and relies too much on the personal limits and boundaries to resolve in any universal manner, a collective answer can't be made because we as humans often end up in disagreeance on what makes for great art anyway (which makes art more satisfying and invigorating anyway, everyone liking the same thing does not result in fruitful, thoughtful conversations), but whether a "bad person" can make something of value often depends in how much of their person they're willing to shave off for the sake of their product and how many attributes of universal (however uncertain and undefinable that term is in this instance) appeal they can add to cover their gangly attributes (for a longer treatsie on that thread I refer to my Runaway review/essay, I told you this is something I've found in my radar a lot). This film, however, isn't art, it's not fun, it doesn't elicit a reaction, it doesn't compel me to think about the evil moralities of the people on and off the screen that are indisputably connected to this film because it is such a fucking chore to get through and is a vapid romp that goes to nowhere just as quickly as it came from. You wanna talk about if Nazis can make great art, watch Triumph of the Will, that'll fuckin' rewire your brain chemistry (I should probably watch that before talking semi-smack), because this is something that's best left stagnant in the Nazi Germany movie halls and not worth dredging up again.

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