Prix de beauté
Live Music/Judith Rosenberg on piano
Living humbly in Rochester, New York, the great silent-era actress Louise Brooks was rediscovered and thrust back into the spotlight in 1955 by Langlois and George Eastman House curator James Card. In 1958 Langlois invited her to Paris for a retrospective of her works, and her legend was solidified. “You have created a new Louise Brooks, entirely yours,” Brooks wrote to Langlois in 1959. Featuring Brooks in her last major role (at age twenty-four), Prix de beauté has a history as illustrious and troubled as its star's. Based on a treatment by G.W. Pabst, it was scripted as a silent by its intended director, René Clair. But Clair left the project when he was forced to rework the script for the addition of sound, and direction was taken over by Augusto Genina, who, with master cinematographer Rudolph Maté, brought an air of actuality to this tale of a Parisian typist who wins a beauty contest and a movie contract, only to face the violent disapproval of her husband. The simple plot becomes a potent vehicle for reflections on the mechanics of celebrity and the power of the photograph. Melodrama and real life ironically converge in the breathtaking ending, with the tragically mortal heroine juxtaposed against her own immortal filmic image—the image of Brooks, a timeless star whose meteoric career was already beginning its rapid decline.
Directed by Augusto Genina. Written by René Clair. Photographed by Rudolph Mate. With Louise Brooks, Georges Charlia, Augusto Bandini. (1930, 90 mins, 35mm, English titles, Print from Museum of Modern Art)