A bit of time travel this week: Silent Toronto brings Murnau's 1924 The Last Laugh (Der letzte Mann) with live piano accompaniment this Sunday.
Legendary German director F.W. Murnau’s masterpiece offers us a peep-hole view into the life of an aging hotel porter (star actor Emil Jannings), too enfeebled to carry out his tasks, who is demoted to the role of bathroom attendant. The film explores integrity, pride, and the importance of rank and uniform in post-World War I Germany,
With one exception, the film’s lack of inter-titles offers the audience a more immersive, purely visual experience, courtesy of master cinematographer Karl Freund. The portly actor, who later starred alongside Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel, was the first German film star to prosper in the United States. And whereas flappers like Louise Brooks or Clara Bow could convey their intentions using a coy smile or the batting of an eye-lash, Jannings expresses his fall from grace using his entire body.
Only twenty-nine at the time, Jannings’ performance is one of the most lauded in silent film history. As Matthew Josephson wrote in the contemporary Masters of the Motion Picture: “The idiotic old creature is interpreted with as much eclat, sympathy, intimacy, and frankness, as let us say, Chaplin interprets Chaplin.”
Featuring live piano accompaniment by Laura Silberberg.
Introduced by Charlie Keil, associate professor of Cinema Studies, University of Toronto.
Preceded by Glimpses of Toronto, a late 1920s silent travelogue showing Toronto at the time of the film’s Ontario premiere in 1928.
Directed by F.W. Murnau
Written by Carl Mayer
Starring Emil Jannings, Maly Delschaft
75 mins | 16mm
Sunday, April 29, 4pm. Revue Cinema, 400 Roncesvalles, Toronto. Admission $12 non-members / $10 members