The Company's in Love (Max Ophüls / Germany, 1932):
(Die Verliebte Firma)

Lubitsch has the garbage can in the gondola and Max Ophüls has the warbling couple in gala clothes amid snowy hills ("If your heart's still single, send it to Venice..."), the frangibility of the romantic image is already his great theme. The stalled movie production remembered much later by Fassbinder (Beware of a Holy Whore) is here a temperamental star's tantrum, she (Anny Ahlers) ditches the provincial shoot and grouses in Berlin to the handsome studio head (Gustav Fröhlich). (She straddles a chair like Lola-Lola and twinkles in close-up, he smiles and looks for a replacement.) The fresh voice on skis belongs to the telegraph clerk with stars in her eyes (Lien Deyers), director and leading man and screenwriter all want a piece of her, the songwriters meanwhile squabble over the sex appeal of rhymes. "That's not a production meeting—that's a madhouse!" Behind-the-screen bustle is an ideal occasion for shaping the Ophüls tempo, even in a cramped train ride there's camera and characters in beautiful, bouncing sync. The swirling dream of fame segues into the disastrous screen test, talent may well be just another illusion under the blasting studio lights. (The magical Italian city is re-created in a flooded set with a full orchestra, an extended panning shot takes it all in until der regisseur barks "Cut!") "How did it go?" "Oh, disgusting. But nice." Antonioni follows the chastened starlet into La Signora Senza Camilie, Ophüls in La Signora di Tutti recounts the comedy as tragedy. With Ernö Verebes, Leonard Steckel, José Wedorn, and Hubert von Meyerinck. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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