Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 18th, 2017
Theatrical Release Date: Germany, 1925
Director: Ewald André Dupont
Writers: Ewald André Dupont, Felix Hollaender
Cast: Emil Jannings, Maly Delschaft, Lya De Putti, Warwick Ward, Alice Hechy, Georg John
BluRay released: August 22nd, 2017
Approximate running times: 94 Minutes (German Theatrical Version)
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: LPCM Stereo with original German intertitles
BluRay Release: Kino Lorber
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $29.95
Varieté was co-written and directed by Ewald André Dupont who’s other notable films include, Moulin Rouge (1928 version), Piccadilly and The Scarf. Key collaborators on Varieté include, cinematographers Carl Hoffmann (Dr. Mabuse the Gambler, F.W. Murnau’s Faust) and Karl Freund (Metropolis, Tod Browning’s Dracula) and producer Erich Pommer (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Spies, The Blue Angel). When Varieté was released in the U.S. the film was abridged due to the Hays Code.
At the heart of this melodrama is a tale rooted in jealously and rage. The first one these two occurs when the protagonist becomes infatuated with a dancer who is much younger than his wife. From there he becomes jealous when other men who watch her perform have lustful thoughts about her and because of this act the protagonist leaves his wife and child, for the other woman. At first things run smoothly with new life he has created with his mistress. That is until one day when the man that he works for sets his sight on her and she willing helps in keeping their relationship a secret. Then things reach a boiling point when he discovers that he has been deceived.
That narrative is told via a flashback by the protagonist and the narrative is bookend with scenes of the protagonist who is telling his story to a judge. The narrative is well constructed and pacing is never an issues key moments are given an ample amount of time to resonate. The characters are well defined and their motivations are always clear.
From a production standpoint, there are no areas where this film is lacking. The premise is solid and the visuals do a superb job reinforcing the mood. Standout moments include, a scene after the protagonist has discovered the deception and his contemplates letting the other man fall while they perform their trapeze act. Another standout moment includes, the murder scene and the moments which follow it.
Performance wise the cast all good in their respective roles. With this film’s standout performance coming from Emil Jannings (Tartuffe, The Blue Angel) in the role of this film’s protagonist Boss Huller. He delivers an utterly convincing performance that ranks among the best from the silent era. Another stand out performance includes, Lya De Putti (The Scarlet Lady, The Informer) in the role of Bertha-Marie, the woman that Boss Huller leaves his family behind for. She delivers a superb performance that more than fulfills the role of the object of desire.
Varieté comes on a 50 GB dual layer (45.5 GB) BluRay. This release has been flagged for progressive playback and the film is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The transfer for this release was sourced from the Frederich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation’s 2014 / 2015 restoration. Source damage is minimal and the image remains stable throughout. The image looks crisp and there are no issues with compression. And when compared to Eureka’s Region B Blu-ray / DVD combo release, this releases transfer is on par with that aforementioned release.
This release comes with two audio options and both audio options are presented in a LPCM Stereo with German Intertitles. Included with this release are removable English subtitles. Both audio mixes sound, clean, clear, balanced and robust when they need too. This release comes with two scores for the film, a new musical score performed by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra and 2015 musical score performed by The Tiger Lillies.
Extras for this release include, an insightful visual essay by Bret Wood (10 minutes 35 seconds), a 7-minute documentary on the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra titled Varieté: The Making of (7 minutes 27 seconds) and a bonus feature film, Othello (79 minutes 43 seconds, LPCM stereo with English intertitles).
The bonus feature film was directed by Dimitri Buchowetzki (Mad Love (Sappho), The Swan) and it stars Emil Jannings and Lya de Putti. This transfer comes from a standard definition source and though there is intermittent source related damage. The majority of the transfer is in good shape.
Overall Varieté gets an exceptional release from Kino Lorber, highly recommended.