For Reel


The Gay Diplomat (1931)
March 22, 2014, 5:28 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Richard Boleslawski
3 Stars
The Gay DiplomatAlthough saddled with a helpless leading man in Ivan Lebedeff, The Gay Diplomat is partially salvaged by Leo Tover’s excellent cinematography and the solid supporting performances by Genevieve Tobin and femme fatale Betty Compson. Legend has it (according to producer Pandro S. Berman) that the early audience review cards raved about Lebedeff… only Berman would later discover that Lebedeff had stolen the cards and written the praises himself! In the film, he plays a Russian war hero who is sent on a mission to Bucharest to oust a female enemy spy. Things become complicated when he falls for Tobin, who at one point he suspects may be the very woman he is searching for. The mystery plot is entertaining if predictable–a more capable leading man might have made the titular character’s dalliances more exhilarating, however Lebedeff is as pretty as Valentino with none of the sex appeal or charisma. Tover’s cinematography is the real star, however, as it occasionally ventures into the avant garde, particularly in a late murder sequence in which hands and faces violently emerge from the shadows during a tense struggle. More strikingly, an early war scene is quite clearly an Eisensteinian undertaking–the images of violence are rapidly cut, using countless superimpositions and the occasional glimpse of brutality shot in startling close-up.

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