The Devil Is a Woman
Time Out saysSternberg's final film with Dietrich, as precisely aimed as a whiplash to the coccyx. Marlene is Concha Perez, cigarette factory girl, sailing serenely through a comic-opera Spain in a steely, deeply-felt analysis of male masochism. Sternberg adapts the same Pierre Louys novel as Buñuel did for That Obscure Object of Desire, but he does it from the inside, centreing on the experience of two men (a young revolutionary and an older military man) who love Marlene and compulsively submit to the agonies of being rejected by her. Even those who go only for the Dietrich glamour can't miss these underlying tensions, since the stoic acceptance of emotional pain undermines all the surface frivolity. Some will find the glittering cruelty sublime. Unique now, as it was then.