War and revolution, the divider and destroyer of families, homes and nations, but also the driver of change and technology and the source of drama; published in 1923, Ilya Ehrenburg’s Любовь Жанны Ней (Lyubov Zhanny Ney, “The Love of Jeanne Ney“) told the story of an affair in post-revolutionary Russia between Communist activist and the titular Jeanne Ney, daughter of “a bourgeois.”
Filmed in 1927 by Georg Wilhelm Pabst as Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney, also released as the misleadingly bawdy Lusts of the Flesh but more correctly translated simply as The Love of Jeanne Ney, Eureka continue their programme of silent cinema with a restored Blu-ray version the latest addition to their Masters of Cinema Collection.
The original negatives having been lost, the two versions presented are reconstructions from secondary sources, the prints sometimes marked but the imperfections forgivable after almost a century of wear, the 106 minute original cut having had the original German language intertitles recreated alongside the sometimes substantially different 86 minute edit released in America.
Jeanne Ney (Édith Jéhanne) the daughter of a political observer killed in an altercation with her lover Andreas Labov (Uno Henning), she flees to Paris to her uncle Raymond (Adolf E Licho) and blind cousin Gabrielle (Brigitte Helm), unaware that she is followed by both Labov and the duplicitous Khalibiev (Fritz Rasp) whose selfish ambition precipitated the killing, having furnished a list of agents which would have placed the Labov and his associates in peril.
A film curiously upside down, the dynamic opening scenes of beer halls, of men drinking and smoking as women dance on tables leading directly to the sorrow of farewells in a ruined city under the rain, Paris is a world away with the possibility of joy in the sunshine and tree-lined boulevards, but with a stolen diamond and the overacting of Licho and Rasp as the odious scoundrel Khalibiev the latter parts become tired and convoluted, lapsing into melodrama and never recovering.
Released at the tail end of the year in which she had made her debut in Metropolis, wide-eyed and tactile, her open face broadcasting hope in a cruel world which she cannot see, Brigitte Helm is the star of The Love of Jeanne Ney which Ehrenburg himself dismissed as nonsense as detailed in David Cairns’ accompanying video essay in which he also discusses the life, career and methods of Pabst who countered the author’s criticism by explaining that he had been under instruction to make the film to appeal to the American market.