Harun Farocki, Felix Hofmann

Scen.: Harun Farocki, Felix Hoffmann. F.: Wolf-Ingo Fallert, Ingo Kratisch. Prod.: Harun Farocki Filmproduktion – DCP. D. 59’

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

German film essayist Harun Farocki (1944-2014) was amongst the most prominent advocates of Peter Lorre. Das doppelte Gesicht, which he co-authored with Felix Hofmann and a little help from Lorre biographer Stephen Youngkin, brought new attention to the actor and especially to his sole directorial effort Der Verlorene. Using loads of publicity stills and lobby cards as well as several film extracts – including a silent clip from Bertolt Brecht’s staging of Man Equals Man in Berlin in 1931 – the documentary sheds significant light on the ups and downs of Lorre’s career. While it is certainly true that his sad and eloquent face and his distinctive Viennese accent singled him out for being typecast – a fate aggravated in exile – the range of characters Lorre portrayed is all the more remarkable. His career in Hollywood ‘art films’ – Farocki refers to Karl Freund’s Mad Love and von Sternberg’s Crime and Punishment – ended almost the minute it had begun; soon after, the Mr. Moto series made Peter Lorre a household name in the US.
The  brilliantly  written  commentary – spoken by an uncredited female voice which probably belongs to Farocki’s then-regular collaborator Corinna Belz – takes into consideration the economic imperatives and workings of the capitalist film industry. It evokes the triad of “trading goods, trading ideas, trafficking human beings” (Warenhandel, Ideenhandel, Menschenhandel). Subsequently, Das doppelte Gesicht seems a little too fast in dismissing Lorre’s seven years at Warner Bros. and his vast contribution to 1940s popular cinema, particularly to film noir and anti-Nazi films. Unlike most emigré actors in Hollywood at the time, he didn’t have to put on a German uniform but once. However, by 1950 Peter Lorre had become increasingly tired of ‘making faces’ to make a living. The actor’s chronic health problems, the disappointing reception of Die Verlorene and his morphine addiction ultimately led to his untimely death at the age of 59. Although coproduced by West German television, Peter Lorre – Das doppelte Gesicht first aired in 1995, 11 years after it was made.

 Michael Omasta

Restored by Deutsche Kinemathek at Film Shift laboratory, from the original 16mm negative