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 The Joyless Street

1926

A stinging indictment of the soullessness of Weimar-era Vienna. In the wake of World War I, the newly impoverished middle class becomes the prey of both black marketeers and the decadent upper classes. This whirlpool of economic ruin and moral decay is dramatized through the story of a middle-class family in decline.

Vienna in the biggest depression, directly after WW1. In a slum, Lila Leid, the wife of lawyer Leid is murdered, Egon, secretary of one of Leid's clients is arrested. He was with her, and had her necklace, because he needed some money for his own stock exchange deals. The same deal brings poverty to ex-government official Rumfort, his daughter Greta, who also has lost her job, tries to get some money to get food. She rents a room of the flat she, her young sister and her father are living in to an American Red Cross official, who pays $60 rent, but the money is taken by some of her father's creditors. But their neighbour, shop owner Mrs Greifer knows how to "help", she and Mrs. Merkel are running a nightclub with a brothel..

 

This early silent classic from director G.W. Pabst (who would go on to make the acclaimed “Pandora’s Box” and “Diary of A Lost Street”), follows the desperate lives of people inhabiting a single street in bleak, post-World War I Vienna. Highly-controversial and heavily-censored at the time of its release, the Austrian-made film features Asta Nielsen as a desperate woman forced into prostitution to provide for her family. Warner Krauss stars as the street’s domineering butcher, while a young Greta Garbo also features in what is said to have been her personal favorite role; it was also her last before coming to America, where far greater fame awaited her. B&W, 61 mins.