Combustible Celluloid
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With: Louise Brooks, Andre Roanne, Josef Rovensky, Fritz Rasp, Vera Pawlowa
Written by: Rudolf Leonhardt, based on a novel by Margarete Bohme
Directed by: G.W. Pabst
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 116
Date: 09/27/1929

Diary of a Lost Girl (1929)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Pabst and Lulu

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Diary of a Lost Girl was the second of two films American actress Louise Brooks made for German director G.W. Pabst. Relegated to bit and supporting parts in America, Pabst spotted Brooks in a 1928 Howard Hawks film (A Girl in Every Port) and offered to cast her in the lead role in Pandora's Box. She agreed, broke her Hollywood contract, and left for Germany. Through Pabst's camera, she became one of the screen's most luminous, mysterious, potent and flat-out beautiful stars ever.

Pandora's Box, with Jack the Ripper as its villain, is perhaps better known and more highly celebrated, but Diary of a Lost Girl is easily its equal. Brooks stars as a naive pharmacist's daughter, a poor girl who is raped and gets pregnant, is shipped off to an evil reform school, then escapes and joins a brothel before inheriting her father's money. Pabst presents this material delicately but without shying away from it, and Brooks drives the whole thing from the movie's center.

Kino released a 2001 DVD, mastered from a beautiful German print containing footage not seen in the U.S. and including a lovely score by Joseph Turrin. It also contained a rare comedy short with an even rarer speaking role by Ms. Brooks. In 2015, Kino Lorber upgraded the movie with a Blu-ray transfer. The tones are lovely, but, as pointed out by both and, the images are slightly stretched. (It's possible that only technophiles will notice, however.) A new score is by Javier PĂ©rez de Aspeitia, and the Louise Brooks expert Thomas Gladysz provides a commentary track. The comedy short is still here, plus a new trailer.

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