The Threepenny Opera (1931)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):   BBBB

Original title:  Die 3 Groschen-Oper

Germany, 1931.  Tobis Filmkunst, Nero-Film AG, Warner Bros.. Adaptation by , , , based on the text by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  

Kurt Weill’s perpetually successful musical about the riffraff of Victorian London is transferred to the big screen with impressive results by G.W. Pabst. A series of robberies led by the notorious Macheath aka Mack The Knife turn out to be the preparation for a wedding in the underworld: Mack is marrying Polly Putnam, daughter of the Beggar King, and paves the way for celebrations and complications worthy of Walpurgis Night. Too much of the music has been cut from the original play, but the great standards like the main character’s highly familiar song and Lotte Lenya‘s performance of “Jenny” are thankfully preserved forever, while the restoration of the film in the 1960s makes it shine like new. It bears the hallmarks of its era in filmmaking, with sometimes awkward sound and uneven editing, but it is amazing how much Pabst, who was a master of silent film, allows his powerful imagery to remain dominant in what is such an enjoyable talkie. The film was unavailable for decades after it was banned by the Nazi government in 1933 for its promotion of morally dubious decadence.

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