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♪ LIVE PIANO ACCOMPANIMENT BY STEVE STERNER
(1928) Convent girl Gloria Swanson catches prince Walter Byron’s eye when her panties drop mid-curtsey, but then there’s jealous queen Seena Owen – at one point wearing nothing but a cat – to contend with; with a wedding in East African brothel to praying-mantis-like degenerate Tully Marshall to follow. No wonder Swanson – abetted by her backer/lover Joseph P. Kennedy (yes, that one) – pulled the plug, effectively ending Stroheim’s major studio career.
"Riveting! An audaciously slow spectacle of lush decor and delirious lighting... A sensuously detailed world of misguided romanticism and seductive cynicism, where monarchs wield jealous whips and kindness conceals cunning strategies."
– Geoff Andrew, Time Out (London)
"One of Stroheim's most provocative works, not just in terms of its extravagant subject matter but in the aesthetic shift it suggests between the fierce realism of Stroheim's earlier work and a distant, abstract perspective that points to the cinema of Josef von Sternberg."
– Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader
"A bilious masterwork of romantic exuberance and carnal decadence... Stroheim's images are as colossal in scale as they are pointedly detailed; each shot is a glittering shard of dark revelation, and they're assembled into a whirling mosaic of lacerating allure, as in a montage of Patricia in church, worshipping the physique of the crucified Jesus, envying Mary with her baby, and lighting a candle of gleefully phallic devotion."
– Richard Brody, The New Yorker