F.W. Murnau's The Last Laugh and Faust
by Gary Johnson
Throughout most of the Twentieth Century, F.W. Murnau's The Last Laugh has held a much higher reputation than his Faust. The Last Laugh was hailed as a masterpiece of expressionism and its worldwide success helped establish Murnau's reputation as one of the silent era's greatest directors. In contrast, Faust received wildly differing critical opinions that frequently accused Murnau of misrepresenting Goethe's classic tale. But in recent years, attitudes toward the movies have begun to flip flop. Emil Jannings' expressionistic performance as a hotel doorman who loses his position--and his all-important uniform--is frequently seen by modern audiences as exuberant hamming.
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