Thursday, January 15, 2009

Beyond Dietrich

Genius at work.

Josef von Sternberg: Eros and Abstraction
January 15, 2009 - February 22, 2009
PFA, Berkley, CA
Series curated by Susan Oxtoby.
Co-presented by Goethe"nstitut San Francisco.

"So many people ended up hating this lonely, gifted little man, utterly convinced that he was a monster; they just couldn't see anything beyond their own selfish antagonism. But back in 1929, I was still a child who sensed, but could not yet analyze why, I felt this man was nice, not to be feared, no matter what anyone had to say about him." [1] This recollection of meeting Josef von Sternberg, at the age of nine, comes from Maria Riva, daughter and biographer of Marlene Dietrich. Dietrich and von Sternberg's films marked a remarkable collaboration that dominated both their careers and their public images even beyond their lifetimes. It is difficult to think about or write about one without the other.

Von Sternberg with his muse and tormentor, Marlene Dietrich.
However, the PFA's film series Josef von Sternberg: Eros and Abstraction, while including all seven of his and Dietrich's films, places them within the context of von Sternberg's entire career. The series ranges from his early silent work, his first talkie, Thunderbolt, the Dietrich series and the post-Dietrich films including his rarely seen Japanese language film, The Saga of Anatahan, over which he had, for the only time, complete creative control. This series promises to be a rich exploration of a great visual artist who had a true understanding of human relationships, in particularly those between men and women.
The PFA's schedule follows:
Thursday, January 15, 2009, 7:30 p.m.
Underworld (1927)
Judith Rosenberg on Piano.
Sunday, January 18, 2009, 5:30 p.m.
The Last Command (1928)
Judith Rosenberg on Piano.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009, 7:30 p.m.
Children of Divorce (1927)
With documentary D'un silence /* l'autre: Josef von Sternberg (1966).
Saturday, January 24, 2009, 6:30 p.m.
The Docks of New York (1928)
Judith Rosenberg on Piano.
Saturday, January 31, 2009, 4:00 p.m.
Thunderbolt (1928)
Sunday, February 1, 2009. 2:00 p.m.
The Blue Angel (1930) (German Language Version)
With Dietrich's screen test and The World of Josef von Sternberg (1967).
Friday, February 6, 2009, 6:30 p.m.
Morocco (1930)
Saturday, February 7, 2009, 6:30 p.m.
An American Tragedy (1931)
Saturday, February 7, 2009, 8:30 p.m.
Dishonored (1931)
Sunday, February 8, 2009, 2:00 p.m.
The Salvation Hunters (1925)
Illustrated Lecture by Janet Bergstrom.
Judith Rosenberg on Piano.
Thursday, February 12, 2009, 6:30 p.m.
Shanghai Express (1932)
Thursday, February 12, 2009, 8:15 p.m.
Blonde Venus (1932)
Saturday, February 14, 2009, 6:30 p.m.
The Scarlet Empress (1934)
Friday, February 20, 2009, 6:30 p.m.
The Devil Is a Woman (1935)
With short The Fashion Side of Hollywood (1935).
Friday, February 20, 2009, 8:30 p.m.
Crime and Punishment (1935)
The Town (1943)
Sunday, February 22, 2009, 6:30 p.m.,AeE
The Saga of Anatahan (1953)
Click here for the PFA's full program notes.
[1] Riva, Maria. Marlene Dietrich, p. 64.


  1. What a great series! Oh how I wish SIFF Cinema would pick this up. The first film, Underworld is my favorite. It's an absolute masterpiece, but I've seen The Docks of New York a million times and never tire of watching it.