A.K.A. Die 3Groschenoper
Director: G.W. Pabst; Writers: Bela Balazs, Leo Lania, Ladislaus Vajda, from the musical play by Bertholt Brecht and Kurt Weill
With Rudolf Forster, Carola Neher, Reinhold Schunzel, Lotte Lenya, Fritz Rasp, Valeska Gert
No words in any language can snarl like Brecht's in his German lyrics for a song like "Mackie Messer" ("Mack the Knife"). Pabst's camera captures harsh faces in rapacious closeup notably Weill's wife, the great Lotte Lenya and prowls through Andrej Andrejew's gorgeously pestilential sets like a second-story man casing the big job. 3 Penny Opera is sibling to another 1931 German melodrama, Fritz Lang's M; both films imagined the criminal underworld as the world, in a country soon to be run by thugs. Of the towering group of directors who defined German film in the silent era (Ernst Lubitsch, F.W. Murnau, Fritz Lang), Pabst was the only one to stay in Deutschland, and keep making films, throughout the Third Reich. But he never again matched the bitter beauty of this work, now magnificently restored for Criterion release.