Marcel L'Herbier


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Highly regarded in France but hardly a household name in the English-speaking world, Marcel L’Herbier made some of the most innovative and spectacular of silent films. His masterpiece is this visually dazzling interpretation of Emile Zola’s 1891 novel about the allure and destructive power of money, which L’Herbier set in an Art Deco Paris of the late 1920s. A business tycoon (Pierre Alcover) schemes to inflate the value of his company by duping an aviator (Henry Victor) into participating in a publicity stunt. Also drawn into the wanton proceedings are the aviator’s naive wife (Marie Glory) and the tycoon’s decadent former mistress (Brigitte Helm of Metropolis fame, writhing in satin and feathers). Described by L’Herbier as ‘a fierce denunciation of money,’ his film’s moral critique is largely overwhelmed by jaw-dropping set-pieces in which the enormous sets and gorgeous decors are dynamically explored by a highly mobile camera. – Peter Walsh

France • 1928 • 164 minutes


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