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  • The print I saw recently did not contain the "prologue" mentioned above, which I assume was lifted from the novel on which the film was based. If it had been included in some form, it would have made several things clearer: 1) where "Boss" got his nickname; 2) why he was so much older than Berta-Marie; 3) why so much older (and less in-shape) a man would still be a trapeze artist; 4) why the couple seemed so puppyishly in love at the beginning, he to the point of slavishness; and 5) why "Boss" would be so jealous when Artinelli shows attentions to Berta.

    None of this is absolutely necessary to enjoy the film, however, which has beautifully detailed performances and terrific camerawork by Karl Freund. The trapeze sequences will leave you giddy. The montages of variety acts are witty and vibrant. Berlin nightlife in the '20s looks glamorous. And Jannings surely has one of the classic silent-screen actors' faces, eloquently conveying a wide spectrum of emotions.

    "Variete" was a sensation when it appeared, primarily for its camerawork. At the time, director EA Dupont took most of the kudos and seemed launched on a promising career. But he was tapped out after his next flick, the estimable "Picadilly," and in retrospect, Freund is the creative force whose part in "Variete" assumes a place in a major body of film work. That being said, Dupont's work with the actors here is outstanding and a key part of the film's success.
  • The male flyer initially appears in cinema as a flawed hero. The prototypes are characters found in Variety (1925), directed by Ewald Dupont and based on Felix Hollaender's novel, The Oath of Stephen Huller.

    This is a semi-expressionist film about a heavy-bodied catcher-husband, Boss Huller (Emil Jannings), whose wife, Bertha-Marie (Lya de Putti), is seduced from domestic bliss by the trio's lighter-bodied star flyer, Artinelli (Warwick Ward). The cather-husband imagines dropping his rival, the flyer, but murders him instead in a fight, and goes to prison. The seducing male flyer is the provocateur of extreme passion, a position subsumed by female aerialist characters in later films. But the male aerialist as a criminal, even murderer, intermittently reappears in representation because he epitomizes a capacity for extreme risk-taking, which is translated into socially risky immoral behavior. But it is the male flyer who becomes especially vulnerable to depiction as a fallen hero, literally and for losing emotional control.

    Although little-known today, Variety is one of the major works of German Expressionism. It's an immorality of emotion drama with a fine performance by (the always great) Jannings and the wonderful visual film-making that is the hallmark of the Expressionist movement (extraordinary cinematography by Karl Freund). Variety was heavily censored for its American release; how it was changed makes it almost as interesting as a case study in film censorship as it is enjoyable as a movie.

    In its original version, the film begins with a drawn-out portion showing how Emil Jannings falls in love with Lya De Putti, left his wife for her, and created a trapeze act with his lover. This part of the story was excised completely by the American censors, and title cards added to redefine Jannings and De Putti as the married couple of the U.S. release version. The censors' intent was to erase the plot point of casting adulterous lovers as the established couple in a love triangle. The effect was to far more radically transform the story. The unfaithful husband who is in his turn betrayed by his unfaithful lover is transformed into a sympathetic cuckold. The opportunistic temptress who catches two men only to end up with none is transformed into a young wife who succumbs to temptation. From unsparing morality play to conventional melodrama, courtesy of censorship.
  • the_old_roman26 August 2001
    Variete is a well-directed and well-acted morality play. Chock full of cynical humor and ironic twists, it keeps your attention throughout in expert fashion until the last 20 minutes of the movie. Then things unravel too quickly and too obviously to hit home with the intended impact of the final irony. Still, I give it 7 out of 10.
  • Wonderful cinematagraphy and cutting influenced other films of the day. The story is old, but made interesting by the acting, sets and location shooting. The trapeze act shots are well worth seeing, though vaudeville and circus fans will be unhappy that there are few other acts shown. However, a 30 or 45 second summary of the variety (vaudeville) show is clever.

    The print I saw at New York's Museum of Modern Art did not have the 'prolog' either. Perhaps it was omitted when the film was released in the US.
  • Among silent film conneisseurs Herr Ewald André Dupont is well-known for a trilogy of films; "Varieté" (1925), "Moulin Rouge" (1928) und "Piccadilly" (1929); they all explore troubled relationships against a background of twenties popular entertainment (music-hall, cabarets, vaudeville). Of these, "Varieté" is certainly the best and Herr Dupont's masterpiece, an excellent film that maintains intact its virtues and cinematic merits after so many years, This Herr Graf revisited it recently and found that it had lost none of its power.

    The love story involves Herr "Boss" Huller ( Herr Emil Jannings ) and the seductive orphan Frau Berta-Marie ( Fay Lya de Putti ) Once a famous trapeze artist, "Boss" has been reduced to managing a sordid fairground attraction together with his wife ( Frau Maly Delschaft ). He falls madly in love with Berta-Marie and seeks to start a new life with his lover, leaving his wife and child behind.

    The virtuosity in the dramatic use of the camera-work together with film narrative by Herr Dupont is simply great. Through the eyes of "Boss'", Dupont skilfully compares the young and vital Berta-Marie and the faded and worn wife. Later the camera shoots from behind Huller's back to depict a desperate man utterly defeated and broken. The expressive close-ups wherein hidden feelings are made transparent are also superb as is the portrait of the people of Berlin, inhabitants of a decadent but thrilling city. The frenzied nightlife of Weimar Berlin (Wintergarten, Vaudeville Theater, fairgrounds) is vividly captured by the camera-work of Herr Karl Freund und Herr Carl Hoffmann.

    The camera-work is especially impressive during the trapeze sequences wherein Herr Dupont, with the aid of optical special effects by Herr Ernst Kunstmann, employs many different camera angles to emphasize the riskiness of the trapeze act and the riskiness of the relationship between "Boss", Berta-Marie and their partner, the famous artist Herr Artinelli ( Herr Warwick Ward ) . The tension builds during the performance because we know that Herr "Boss" has discovered that Berte-Marie and Artinelli have become lovers.

    The actors are splendid, specially Herr Jannings who, when properly directed , can express powerfully the most inner and divergent human feelings, Frau Lya de Putti, is no femme fatale type at all but that certainly is the point; she's attractive enough but common, someone easily charmed by a stylish man like Herr Artinelli.

    "Varieté" is an exemplary work wherein all the achievements and virtuosity of German cinema of that time are on display. You have Expressionism intertwined with social comment, a fascinating portrait of the times. Dupont's wavers a bit at the end and allows a minor concession which is forgivable and by no means fatal to the film as a whole.

    And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must refuse a splendid offer to be a fairground attraction.
  • The Plot: Prologue: The murderer "Boss" Huller - after having spent ten years in prison - breaks his silence to tell the warden his story.

    "Boss", a former trapeze artist, and his wife own a cheap side-show that displays ''erotic sensations''. But he longs for his former glamorous life in the circus.

    When he meets the orphan Berta-Marie, he falls under her spell and leaves his wife and young son behind.

    He makes Berta-Marie his partner in a new trapeze number. One day, the famous trapeze artist Artinelli takes note of them and engages them for his trapeze show in Berlin. Their salto mortale becomes an immediate sensation. Calculatedly and cold, Artinelli seduces Berta-Marie and destroys "Boss'" happiness.

    If you are watching a version shorter than 112 minutes, you are watching the edited version. My screening was 83 minutes so I know there were lots of scenes cut out.

    Still, it's an interesting movie. Yes, the story line is dated, but I assume that was not the case back in 1925.

    The direction is really good.

    I found interest in watching how people lived back then. Smoking all the time indoors, the luggage used, the different acts at the circus (which, BTW, was not a circus as we know it today, more a vaudeville show).

    All the guys wear suits and ties and hats. A different time and place.

    Anyway..it's true that the story is not complex. And it's also true that the female lead is not especially attractive. Nor is she slim. And Jannings is laughably overweight to be an acrobat.

    The guy who is is stunt double for the acrobat scenes is literally 80 pounds lighter!

    Despite all...watch it for the cinematography!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    'Varieté', based on a 1923 novel by Felix Hollaender, 'Der Eid des Stephan Huller', has a pretty basic plot of adultery and jealousy that has seen service several times over the years, and is here embellished by being set amidst the exotic and dangerous world of trapeze artists. It's thus HOW the story is told rather that WHAT happens that gives 'Varieté' its lustre. It's certainly - along with most actual German silents - not an expressionist film; the backdrop is grubbily realistic in a way far more common to German films of the twenties rather than expressionist, and has been rendered super-stylish by cameraman Karl Freund (who shot this between 'Der letzte Mann' and 'Metropolis') and director E.A.Dupont through flamboyant staging and camera-work.

    Emil Jannings is relatively restrained too, and wears far less makeup and facial hair than we are accustomed to, while amply demonstrating that he can still suggest violent menace just by staring and pursing his lips. Lya De Putti as the saucy little minx with her floppy, boyish hair and knowingly expressive face who Jannings leaves his wife for and then falls for creepy Warwick Ward still remains deliciously plausible as the cause of the destructive passion we witness over 90 years later.

    BIG SPOILER COMING: The film seems to have been building up to Jannings allowing Ward to 'accidentally' fall to his death during their trapeze act, but he instead kills him afterwards in his hotel room and immediately hands himself over to the police without bothering to explain why he did it. I don't know how the original novel ended, but would have found a more satisfactory conclusion being Jannings committing the perfect murder by making Ward's death appear accidental and resuming married life with Ms De Putti, both their lives soured by the fact that she has lost her lover and is left unsure of whether his death really was an accident, while Jannings' life is forever tarnished by the fact of his wife's betrayal. However, this would have meant Jannings not going to jail, and the German censor had probably found more than enough to take issue with without adding such an amoral resolution to this already salty brew of lust and immorality.
  • In 1915 Germany, burly trapeze artist Emil Jannings (as Stephan "Boss" Huller) leaves his wife and partner for sultry young Lya de Putti (as Berta-Marie). Soon, the carnival performing pair are hired by famed trapezist Warwick Ward (as Artinelli), after his flying brother is derailed by a fall. The high swinging threesome is an immediate success. But, after his trimmer partners begin to take care of their mutual attraction, Mr. Jannings must commit the crime for which he serves ten years in prison - as revealed in the present-day prologue. No doubt, it's going to get nasty…

    Appearing decidedly middle-aged, and with his overweight figure impossible to disguise, Jannings is miscast to the point of ridiculous. But, he was so popular most viewers accepted Jannings as the trim athletic "catcher" flying high. For American consumption, Paramount left out Jannings' adulterous first act (and trimmed the remainder of the film). This softens Jannings' character, of course. The film cutters did leave in some flashes of female nipple. That, Jannings, and some great camera-work from Karl Freud made "Varieté" a critical and commercial success in the US.

    ****** Varieté (11/16/25) E.A. Dupont ~ Emil Jannings, Lya de Putti, Warwick Ward, Maly Delschaft
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Varieté" or "Variety" is a German black-and-white film from 1925 and as this one is already over 90 years old, nobody should be surprised that this is a silent film of course. The writer, who adapted the novel by Felix Hollaender, is Ewald André Dupont and he is also the one who directed this movie. There are contradictory statements about the runtime, but the version I saw was slightly under 100 minutes long. The big name here is of course the one who is also credited first in the cast list: Emil Jannings. The female main character was played by the ill-fated Lya De Putti. All in all, there was a decent scene here and there, but overall it was not working well enough for me as a whole to recommend it. Then again I am not the greatest silent film fan in general. One major problem here is the one that was really common back then: namely the lack of subtitles or I could also say they were not frequent enough. this is a real deal breaker in many movies and this one here is no exception, because if you are not familiar with the novel, it is occasionally impossible to understand what is going on and if you lose the connection to the story, you also lose interest quickly. This is what happened to me here. I give "Varieté" a thumbs-down. Watch something else instead.