3 Penny Opera

The 3 Penny Opera

3.5 4
Director: G.W. Pabst

Cast: G.W. Pabst, Rudolf Forster, Margo Lion, Carola Neher

     
 
Filmmaker G.W. Pabst's adaptation of Bertoldt Brecht and Kurt Weill's Threepenny Opera (Die Dreisgoschenoper) is every bit as good as the stage original, and sometimes even better. Filmed in both German and French versions with different casts (a planned English-language version was abandoned), Threepenny is most readily available today in its

Overview

Filmmaker G.W. Pabst's adaptation of Bertoldt Brecht and Kurt Weill's Threepenny Opera (Die Dreisgoschenoper) is every bit as good as the stage original, and sometimes even better. Filmed in both German and French versions with different casts (a planned English-language version was abandoned), Threepenny is most readily available today in its German incarnation. Rudolf Forster stars as robber captain MacHeath -- aka Mackie Messer, or Mack the Knife -- who falls in love with Polly (Carola Neher), daughter of beggar king Peachum (Fritz Rasp). Despising MacHeath, Peachum plots the thief's downfall with his best friend, corrupt police official Tiger Brown (Reinhold Schunzel). The satirical "happy ending" of the original -- MacHeath, en route to the gallows, suddenly and without motivation promoted to knighthood! -- is altered somewhat by Pabst and his scenarists to accommodate a swipe against Depression-era bankers. Lotte Lenya, Weill's wife, brilliantly repeats her stage role as Pirate Jenny. Stylistically, Threepenny Opera is a Georg Grosz drawing come to life; despite its 1890s London setting, the film's calculatedly tawdry veneer is clearly meant to represent the wide-open Berlin of the 1930s. For the record: the French version of Threepenny Opera starred Albert Prejean as MacHeath.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
Librettist Bertolt Brecht was understandably upset with the considerable liberties taken in transferring his and Kurt Weill's monumental The Threepenny Opera to the screen. Still, while director G.W. Pabst and his collaborators may have altered too much of the material (including cutting some of the score's most memorable numbers) and may have (perhaps inevitably) changed the theatrical tone of the piece, the result is still fascinating. If Brecht's sense of theatrical alienation is missing, his attacks on capitalism still come through strongly. As with the play, there's a distinct remoteness to the piece; one watches the film and while one is never bored, one is also never engaged in the characters, thus making the viewer an observer rather than a participant. The cast is strong, with Rudolf Forster making a charmingly ruthless Mackie whose stern authoritarianism still has a softer side to it. Carola Neher captures both the tender and the tough sides of Polly, and Reinhold Schuenzel is an amusing Tiger Brown. Best of all, however, are Fritz Rasp and Lotte Lenya. Rasp's Peachum is a slimy marvel, a Fagin with no soul and no remorse. Lenya's performance is mesmerizing; she gives so much weight to the film that her character seems a major force, rather than the relatively minor role that it is, and her "Pirate Jenny" is both shilling and thrilling. Pabst and his designers have given the film a distinctive chiaroscuro look, and the director has created several sequences -- including the climactic march during the coronation -- that are simply stunning. Ultimately, the problems in adapting Threepenny to the screen keep the film from being a classic, but it's still a unique experience.

Product Details

Release Date:
09/18/2007
UPC:
0715515025720
Original Release:
1931
Rating:
NR
Source:
Criterion
Region Code:
1
Presentation:
[B&W, Full Frame]
Time:
1:50:00
Sales rank:
1,169

Special Features

Disc One: ; New, restored high-definition digital transfer, made from a new film restoration element from the Bundesarchiv in Germany; Audio commentary by scholars David Bathrick and Eric Rentschler; Archival introduction by Threepenny stars Fritz Rasp and Ernst Busch; New, exclusive documentary on Threepenny's controversial journey from stage to screen; New and improved English subtitle translation; ; Disc Two: ; L'opéra de Quat'sous, Pabst's French-language version of the film, starring Albert Préjean and Florelle; A multimedia presentation by film scholar Charles O'Brien on the differences between the English and French versions; Archival interview with Fritz Rasp; Galleries of production photos by Hans Casparius and production sketches by art director Andrej Andrejew; Plus: A new essay by film critic Tony Rayns

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Rudolf Forster Mackie Messer
Margo Lion Jenny
Carola Neher Polly Peachum
Lotte Lenya Jenny
Albert Prejean Mackie Messer
Ernst Busch Street-Singer
Gaston Modot Peachum
Valeska Gert Mrs. Peachum
Fritz Rasp Peachum
Reinhold Schuenzel Tiger Brown
Vladimir Sokoloff Smith, the Jailer
Antonin Artaud [in French Version]
Odette Florelle Polly
Jack Henley Tiger Brown
Oskar Hocker Mackie Messer's Gang Member
Paul Kemp Mackie Messer's Gang Member
Jane Marken [Jeanne] Mrs. Peachum
Krafft Raschig Mackie's Gang
Hermann Thimig Vicar
Gustav Püttjer Mackie Messer's Gang Member

Technical Credits
G.W. Pabst Director
André Andrejew Production Designer
Béla Balázs Screenwriter
Adolf Jansen Sound/Sound Designer
Leo Lania Screenwriter
Theo Mackeben Musical Direction/Supervision
Seymour Nebenzal Producer
Henri Rust Editor
Laszlo Vajda Screenwriter
Fritz Arno Wagner Cinematographer
Kurt Weill Score Composer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Threepenny Opera: Feature
1. "How Does a Man Survive?" [2:53]
2. "Mack the Knife" [5:31]
3. The Cuttlefish Hotel [7:32]
4. Burglary and the Chief of Police [5:29]
5. "The Wedding Song for Poor People" [2:16]
6. "Liebeslied" [2:20]
7. The Wedding [7:36]
8. "Polly's Song" [5:22]
9. Tiger Brown Arrives [3:45]
10. Jonathan Jeremias Peachum [8:13]
11. A Visit to Tiger Brown [3:28]
12. "Song of Futility" [1:37]
13. Polly's Promotion [8:15]
14. Turnbridge Street [5:42]
15. "Pirate Jenny" [4:25]
16. Chase Scene [1:47]
17. Suky Tawdry [3:35]
18. Deputy Director Polly [3:29]
19. Jail [4:06]
20. Procession of the Poorest [4:33]
21. Reprise of "Song of Futility" [:31]
22. 10,000 Bail [5:48]
23. The Coronation [5:49]
24. 10,000 Investment [1:51]
25. "Cannon Song" [2:11]
26. Final Stanzas of "Mack the Knife" [2:35]
1. Brecht and Weill [10:51]
2. "Sure to Be a Flop" [11:22]
3. The Film [5:18]
4. A Number of Changes [18:27]
5. More Marxist? [2:21]
Disc #2 -- Threepenny Opera: Supplements
1. "How Does a Man Live?" [1:10]
2. "Mack the Knife" [5:40]
3. The Cuttlefish Hotel [7:26]
4. Burglary and the Chief of Police [5:22]
5. "The Wedding Song for Poor People" [2:14]
6. "Liebeslied" [2:17]
7. The Wedding [7:48]
8. "Polly's Song" [5:12]
9. Tiger Brown Arrives [3:22]
10. Jonathan Jeremias Peachum [7:50]
11. A Visit to Tiger Brown [2:46]
12. "Song of Futility" [1:29]
13. Polly's Promotion [7:21]
14. Turnbridge Street [5:32]
15. "Pirate Jenny" [3:18]
16. Chase Scene [2:31]
17. Suky Tawdry [3:24]
18. Deputy Director Polly [3:10]
19. Jail [3:12]
20. Procession of the Poorest [5:05]
21. Reprise of "Song of Futility" [:29]
22. 10,000 Bail [5:37]
23. The Coronation [2:30]
24. 10,000 Investment [2:45]
25. "Cannon Song" [3:01]
26. Final Stanzas of "Mack the Knife" [1:40]

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