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FOOLISH WIVES

USA, 1921 (MIFF 1964)

Director: Erich von Stroheim

This many faceted view of the gay life in Monte Carlo immediately following the Armistice of 1918 is a dar­ingly humorous and subtly provocative sexual comedy that shocked the film goers of its day. It was the fulfillment of the approach indicated by von Stroheim's two earlier films.

Set in a magnificent chateau near Monte Carlo, von Stroheim plays Count Karamzin, a bogus Russian aristo­crat who resides there with his two 'cousins' . Living on their wits, hev gamble heavily at the casino,pass counterfeit notes, run up credit and take any easy money that comes their way.The Count has a nice line in blackmail involving wealthy married women. The wife of ihe American Ambassador is caught up in his schemes, but before he can bring the affair to a successful conclusion he is murdered by the irate father of a gul he had previously seduced.

This fantastic tale is told with a brilliant and massive accumulation of detail. Untidily constructed, shifting in its emphasis, it seems at times to be encompassing loo much, but its dramatic tension survives through masterly character studies and unfailing conviction The sellings show the flowering of von Stroheim's passion for detail, which he so much admired in Griffith.

Foolish Wives contains al once promise and fulfillment: it is a kind of prelude to von Stroheim's more mature works, culminating in what critics consider his masterpiece, Greed.

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