Monday, July 30, 2012

Pandora's Box

Pandora's Box
seen online via YouTube

I have a comic book which re-interprets the Pandora myth: basically, the "real" Pandora was a prostitute who gets hired by a wealthy Greek landowner in a revenge scheme against his male ex-lover. At the landowner's urging, she marries the ex-lover but cheats on him with his brother (though she doesn't have sex with either of them), sowing dissension between the two and setting them at war with each other as a result. The box element comes in later, through one of Pandora's clients, the poet Hesiod. She tells him the story of the landowner and the brothers while they're in bed. They get caught by his wife and he blames Pandora for tempting him. When he eventually writes her story (re-interpreted into a tale of the gods), he vilifies her, creating the concept of the box containing all the world's evils. The whole thing's actually played up for laughs and it's quite funny.

The underlying message here, as in the original myth, remains the same: women are man's scapegoats for everything bad in the world - which is why I found this a somewhat odd metaphor to use for the silent German film Pandora's Box, since so many men in the story are eager to do just about anything for Louise Brooks' character. She kills her insanely jealous, much older husband, though it could be argued that it was self-defense, given the unusual circumstances, but at her trial she escapes sentencing thanks to a diversion provided by her pals. Talk about devotion! She spends the second half of the film on the run with them, including her husband's son from a previous marriage, who, of course, is in love with her.

This one was melodramatic, but strangely compelling. Brooks keeps the whole thing watchable. She's not what I would call my type - too skinny, for one thing - but she has a certain glamor, a certain presence, accentuated by the clothes she wears and, of course, that Vulcan hairdo of hers. It's easy to see why she became so memorable.

When Norma Desmond says "We didn't need dialogue, we had faces!" in Sunset Boulevard, I didn't fully grasp the depth of her meaning when I first saw it, but now I believe I do. Silent movie stars had to convey their emotions, their character, with their faces - sometimes it was overwrought, but other times, like in Pandora, it's more subtle, and as a result, more magnetic. Many great actors say all the acting is done in the eyes, anyway. Combined with the right camerawork, a certain look can be iconic in a way that you rarely see in "talkies," and certainly less so in modern Hollywood movies, which pummel you into submission with frenetic imagery. No subtlety at all.


  1. The comic book you mention, when you say you have it, is it one you did that I'm not recalling or one that you own?

    I'm always wondering when I see Louise Brooks how I am finding myself attracted to such a waif. I don't tend to like super thin girls, but she has this undeniable charm and presence which makes her vavavoom. So much so you can understand why every man wants her even when she's at her worst.

    (I'm sure we both know a girl like this. I know I do.)

  2. It was an issue of Shade the Changing Man. Don't know if you ever read that or not.


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