Madame DuBarry

Live Musical Accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch.
With Pola Negri, Emil Jannings, Harry Liedtke.
Germany, 1919, DCP, black & white, silent.
German intertitles with English subtitles.
DCP source: Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung

Despite historian Siegfried Kracauer’s pithy critique of this film (“the story’s contempt for historic facts is matched only by its disregard for their meaning.”), Madame DuBarry was the film that ended the American embargo on German cinema following World War I and, as such, launched a “German invasion” that would radically transform American moviemaking. Retitled Passion to bolster its star’s appeal, the film focuses on the romantic and political intrigues that reverberated throughout the court of Louis XV and reimagines the origins of the French Revolution in the libidinous shifts of fortune of Madame DuBarry, mistress to the king. What Lubitsch sacrificed in authenticity, he readily made up for in spectacle—with his stunning sets, elaborate costumes and props, and leviathan crowd scenes replete with 5,000 extras. 

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