Last Laugh, The

Director: F.W. Murnau

1924. Black and white. 77 mins.

Director F.W. Murnau was one of the leading lights of German cinema during the 1920s, and this dazzling example of his talent led to
a Hollywood contract and the making of the sublime Sunrise. The Last Laugh tells of an ageing hotel commissionaire (Emil Jannings) who suffers the humiliation of being stripped of his position-and his all-important uniform-when demoted to the lowly job of lavatory attendant. Murnau gives this simple, melodramatic story the big treatment by imbuing every scene with great emotional resonance and symbolic import. The brilliantly creative use of camera movement, production design and staging rendered explanatory titles virtually redundant and demonstrated the expressive possibilities of pure cinema.

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