90 Great Directors: Josef von Sternberg

“Shadow is mystery and light is clarity. Shadow conceals–light reveals. To know what to reveal and what to conceal and in what degrees to do this is all there is to art.”

What Got This Director Here?
: Body of work, mostly Blue Angel.

My Favorite Past Experience Was…: The Scarlet Empress.

What Did I Watch: Anatahan.

Where Does He Fit: Anatahan is a frustrating piece of astounding cinematography married to a voiceover that needs to go away, even if there’s a certain appeal in the voice of Von Sternberg. Cinema’s greatest sensualist has gone totally mad outside the studio’s control, with nudity and artificial island landscapes married to a lack of subtitles. I was very glad to see this slideshow from hell theatrically, as some of the cuts and shots astonish, but my patience for the conversation that is too dry and academic to really justify wavered. Still very much worth seeing if only for the New Year’s Eve 1949 sequence when the talking stops.


Most Valuable Asset: Layers of phoniness in production design.
Most Excited For: Macao? Does this even count?
Did They Deserve a Spot?: Absolutely. One of the greats.

Coming Up Next: Animation legend Hayao Miyazaki.


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