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Liliom

Screening on Film
Directed by Fritz Lang.
With Charles Boyer, Madeleine Ozeray, Florelle.
France, 1934, 35mm, black & white, 120 min.
French with English subtitles.

Lang’s brief Parisian sojourn—between Germany and Hollywood—produced a single film which he later asserted was among his favorites. Already a popular stage play by the time it fell into Lang’s hands, Liliom swirls around a charismatic, brutish carnival worker whose childlike narcissism and unexamined drives lead to love, crime, punishment and death, then undergo a dreamily surreal replay in the afterlife. With a dark yet patient playfulness, Liliom tips as close as Lang allows toward romantic comedy, yet this humor is shaded by greater existential quandaries. Be they martyrs, saints, monsters or bureaucrats, Lang’s victims of destiny remain trapped in heavens and hells of their own inventive creation. Apparently under the influence of his own unconscious drives, Lang even unwittingly included the radical Surrealist Antonin Artaud as Liliom’s mysterious, gaunt guardian angel.

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