Containing elements later revisited in 1950’s "Sunset Boulevard" and 1980’s "The Stunt Man", director Josef von Sternberg’s silent classic uses Tinseltown’s own artifice as a vehicle to tell the story of one proud man’s tumble from grace and another man’s discovery that whether or not it’s served up cold, revenge can still leave a bitter taste. And the special effects department, primitive as it was, manages to serve up an ice cold Soviet winter (both in “real life” and “movie set” mode) with several notable scenes—my personal favourite being that of a train slowly pulling into a station overrun by a revolutionary mob, its flickering windows offering brief glimpses of violent confrontations outlined in silhouette. Not quite a “film within a film”, Sternberg’s keen grasp of composition and continuity nevertheless juxtaposes reality with staged imitation, making his sad story a treat for both mind and eye.

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