Morocco

With its wildly improbable story, its pre-Code innuendo and insolent stars-Marlene Dietrich as the cabaret performer Amy Jolly and Gary Cooper as the hangdog French Legionnaire she loves-Morocco is a masterpiece of controlled artifice. For Sternberg, Dietrich is another ornament to an exotic set, rich in visual detail and as complexly patterned with light and shadow. Even the pictorial effect of slatted shutters competes with Dietrich's beauty. The whole surface of the film is sensual: luminous and tactile. And the soundtrack, all natural, without background music, is a “revelation of poetic choices . . . sounds are strokes, instilled with the same masterly precision as the seething imagery” (Warren Sonbert). Chaplin and Eisenstein were quick to praise Morocco as Sternberg's most beautiful film to date, a brilliant arrangement of lighting, design, and atmosphere-all created on the back lot, with nothing left to chance.

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