Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Emil Jannings, Gösta Ekman, Camilla Horn, Frida Richard, William Dieterle, Yvette Guilbert, Eric Barclay, Hanna Ralph, Werner Fuetterer
Written by: Hans Kyser, based on the play by Johann Wolfgang Goethe
Directed by: F.W. Murnau
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 107
Date: 10/14/1926
IMDB

Faust (1926)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Soul for Sale

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After Murnau's international success with The Last Laugh, he was given carte blanche for his upcoming projects. The very expensive and mesmerizing Faust was one result of this. Based on Goethe's play, the film tells the story of an old man, Faust (Gösta Ekman), who sells his soul to the devil (otherwise known as Mephisto, played by Emil Jannings) in order to fight off the pestilence plaguing his hometown.

The film begins with a jaw-dropping scene -- with amazing use of light and shadow -- in which Good and Evil spirits bet on whether or not Faust will reclaim his soul. But on earth, Mephisto keeps upping the stakes, offering Faust youth, women, and anything else he wants. Some of the "romantic" moments in flower-filled fields don't seem to belong, but the overall film is truly masterful. Filmmaker and critic Eric Rohmer wrote a monograph on Faust in which he marveled that no other film showed such complete control over every conceivable element.

Kino's initial DVD release boasts an excellent transfer and a good musical score, plus an amazing photo gallery of Murnau at work. In 2009, Kino issued a new, remastered edition. But in 2015, they topped themselves with a glorious Blu-ray (the cover alone is worth a "wow"). It includes two musical scores (also on the 2009 disc), a piano score by Javier Perez de Azpeitia, as well as the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra score. Other bonuses include the documentary The Language of Shadows: Faust, and screen test footage of Ernst Lubitsch's abandoned 1923 production. A bonus DVD includes an alternate cut of the film, from 1930, with a score by Timothy Brock.

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