Two women love the same man in a world of few prospects. In Budapest, Liliom is a "public figure," a rascal who's a carousel barker, loved by the experienced merry-go-round owner and by a ...
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An altruistic department-store owner hires ex-convicts in order to give them a second chance at life. Unfortunately, one of the convicts he hires recruits two of his fellow ex-convicts in a plan to rob the store.
A German architect runs away with the maharajah of Eschnapur's fiancee but is caught and thrown in the dungeon, while his relatives arrive from Europe looking for him and the maharajah's brother is scheming to usurp the throne.
Two women love the same man in a world of few prospects. In Budapest, Liliom is a "public figure," a rascal who's a carousel barker, loved by the experienced merry-go-round owner and by a young, innocent maid. The maid, Julie, loses her job after going out with Liliom; he's fired by his jealous employer for going out with Julie. The two lovers move in with Julie's aunt; unemployment emasculates him and a local weasel tempts him with crime. Julie, now wan, is true to Liliom even in his bad temper. Meanwhile, a stolid widower, a carpenter, wants to marry Julie. Is there any future on this earth for Julie and Liliom, whose love is passionate rather than ideal? Written by
Having tried and failed to sit through Carousel (a lumbering musical remake of the same story) I was wholly unprepared for the delight that is Liliom. A fantasy love story set half on Earth, half in Heaven, it's not at all the type of film you expect from Fritz Lang. It's closer in tone to Michael Powell or Jean Cocteau - and may be a 'hidden influence' on both A Matter of Life and Death and Orphee.
Not least among his achievements...Lang pulls off the well-nigh impossible feat of making Charles Boyer interesting! Sorry, but I'd always found this actor deeply resistible. A suburban housewife's stereotype of a suave Continental lover. But in this movie, Boyer plays a role that (even five years later) would have been reserved exclusively for Jean Gabin. A tough carnival barker and petty crook. A sexy 'bad boy' in a striped, clinging T-shirt and skin-tight jeans.
Boyer as Liliom is a Gallic cousin of Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire. I could well understand why Julie (Madeleine Ozeray) fell head over heels for him, because I did too. He treats her appallingly, of course. Boozing, whoring, gambling...even a (very non-PC) touch of wife-beating. For all its fantasy elements, this love story is as warped and sadomasochistic as any in later Lang movies, like Secret Beyond the Door or The Big Heat. (Hot coffee, anyone?)
Eventually, two angels show up and haul Boyer off to the hereafter - where he must atone for his sins! The term 'angels' is one I use loosely. Dark-suited, pale-skinned and shaven-headed, these two guys look like denizens of an X-rated Berlin nightclub. Kinkier still is Boyer's personal 'spirit guide' - a mad-eyed knife-grinder played by Antonin Artaud, the twisted genius who invented the Theatre of Cruelty.
Liliom is a rare treat for old-movie buffs. Lyrical and fantastic, yes. Soppy and sentimental, never. It stands comparison with Lang's best work from Berlin or Hollywood. I can only regret he did not spend more time in France.
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