The Great Love | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Great Love


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A prime example of what film scholar Eric Rentschler calls the Third Reich's attempt "to aestheticize politics in order to anesthetize the populace," Rolf Hansen's The Great Love is patriotic exhortation disguised as star-studded extravaganza. Zarah Leander, a Swedish chanteuse anointed queen of Nazi cinema by Goebbels after Marlene Dietrich declined the honor, plays a music-hall diva who falls in love with a fighter pilot on leave from the front (Viktor Staal). True to the conventions of a 30s melodrama, their romance is constantly thwarted by calls to duty, offering Leander ample opportunities to emote and strut her stuff in outlandish musical numbers worthy of Busby Berkeley. Though much of the film was shot in the famed Ufa studio, action occasionally shifts to glamorous, German-occupied Paris and Rome, where few signs of war and few natives can be detected. These travelogues certainly added to the picture's commercial appeal; The Great Love was the biggest box-office success of the Nazi era. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Sunday, May 28, 6:00, 443-3737.

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