Pandora's Box (Die Buchse der Pandora) (1929)
Director: G. W. Pabst
Louise Brooks has a magnetic screen quality similar to Marilyn Monroe, Barbara Stanwyck, Rita Hayworth, Audrey Hepburn and many others. It is not simply down to beauty or acting ability, but they all possess a certain something that makes it impossible to look at anyone else while they are on screen. This quality is perfectly used in Pabst's film as Brooks plays Lulu, a young woman whose sexuality seems to drive men to do incredibly mad things.
The story is melodramatic, with death, falls from grace and rioteous crowd scenes providing the plot turning points. Its origins as a play are still present onscreen in the form of intertitle cards announcing 'Act One' and so on. Pandora is grand in its stylistic excess; even the scenes of poverty feel large. While the other actors are good, none can compete with Brooks. She has a naturalness to her which rather highlights the performative behaviour of everyone else. Though Lulu is not a completely 'pure' character, you cannot but help sympathise with her; many of her problems are caused by the people having extreme reactions to her mere presence. This is no better demonstrated then in the famous court room scene, where Lulu is painted as either an angel or the blackest woman to walk the earth.
This is another example of the international appeal of silent film; the audience and the actors are not struggling through language barriers or adopting ghastly accents. It also shows us why Louise Brooks was one of the most significant actors in early cinema, and why Pabst went all the way to America to find his leading lady.