17 August 2011 | MartinHafer
Pretty much "Die 3 Groschen-Oper" but made with a French-speaking cast.
If you've already seen the German language version of this film that was directed by G.W. Pabst, you've pretty much seen this film. Let me explain. In the early days of sound films, film producers figured that most audiences didn't want to see a talking picture with subtitles--this was the prevailing feeling at the time. And, because they really hadn't figured out the process for dubbing films in various languages, the studios did something pretty freaky. With 'big' productions, they often made multiple versions for international consumption. In the case of Laurel & Hardy, who were huge international stars, they literally had them make versions of their films where the pair phonetically delivered their lines--mostly to an all-new supporting cast who spoke this other language (although James Finlayson appeared in some of these dual language films). They made French, German, Italian and Spanish language films--longer and often very different from their American shorts. In the case of most other prestige films, the film actually had two separate casts that used the exact same sets--the international one filming after hours. This is the case with "L'opéra de Quat'sous", as the German director G.W. Pabst literally made two versions of his film--one German and this one French. I have no idea if he made any other versions of this film.
Because this film had the same director making both, the subsequent films are a lot more similar than many similar types of films. For example, the American version of "Dracula" and the Spanish one had totally different directors and so many of the scenes looked very, very different. Because "L'opéra de Quat'sous" and "Die 3 Groschen-Oper" BOTH had Pabst at the helm, the two are, at times, pretty indistinguishable and I'd rate them both to be roughly equal in quality. Both look simply marvelous--but both also are a bit tough to watch because they are musicals--unless you know the language. And, musicals translate much poorer to subtitles than an ordinary film.
If you DO want to see both films, they are included together in a collection from Criterion. Worth seeing if you are a cinemaniac!