Grand Hotel (1932)
Genre: Drama Romance
Starring: Greta Garbo (Anna Karina; Queen Christina), John Barrymore (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde)
Directed By: Edmund Goulding (Nightmare Alley; The Razor's Edge)
Overview: In the most expensive and luxurious hotel in Berlin, the lives of a ballerina, a baron, a book-keeper and a brute entwine themselves into tales of love, lust, greed and justice.
Acting: The great women of the era, Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford, are both awesome in their roles, but I found that the stories of terminally-ill Kringelein and his angry boss, Preysing were the best of them all. All this to say that every person in this film is perfectly directed, and as performances go, it's one of the best I've seen this year.
Cinematography: The sets were elaborate and the rooms were pricey-looking, and there was just enough innovation going on in the camerawork. There was a great shot of the facade of all the floors facing the foyer and the opening overhead scene with all the operators patching through the calls of the patrons, not to mention the scene with the disparaging ballerina sitting in the dark taking her shoes off. Even though the look isn't what you're here for, you'll be impressed enough with the visuals.
Script: Sometimes a touch cliché, the script is nonetheless inspirational and well-paced, revealing mysteries slowly while still developing characters boldly. As mentioned under Acting, the Kringelein story is great, and his character is all emotion and raw energy. The less-enjoyed love story is very short in comparison, leaving more time for the unfolding of deeper, more sinister plots.
Plot: It's really four stories that intermingle. One is about a man who goes to the most expensive hotel in Berlin to live it up while his terminal illness claims him and happens to be the employee of... a wealthy factory owner trying to make a merger deal while becoming enamored with his typist who... meets a preoccupied Baron who... is particularly interested in a despairing ballerina. Seriously, no spoilers, this all happens in the first 20 minutes... The connection between then all is the fun part.
Mood: The era is perfectly captured, if I do say so myself. Sure, I wasn't around back in '32 and I've never really know any of the aged to talk about those days, but big furs, Brylcreem, and men as men and the women who faun at their feet, I'd say is pretty indicative of an era when women as powerful sex objects by their own right was really taking hold...
Overall Rating: 82% (Grand Indeed!)
Aftertaste: Totally impressed. If this was done in the modern day, I bet even Quentin Tarantino could pull off something like it. It would have action, adventure, a big of comedy, some attractive women, a prostitute maybe, some debauchery... I'm sure he could easily retell four stories that all happen in the same hotel on the same night.