The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, April 12-18

Ecstasy (1933 Czechoslovakia/Austria) aka Ekstase Directed by Gustav Machatý Shown: Hedy Lamarr

Ecstasy (1932)
Directed by Gustav Machatý
It is easy to understand the original fuss over this Czech-Austrian silent film. For all of the film’s obligatory nods to nascent socialist-realism—shots of shirtless farmers with scythes breaking sweat to build a better tomorrow—the real juice, or pulp, lies in Machatý’s unabashed (for the epoch) sexual scenes. Eva (Hedy Lamarr), an unhappy newlywed ignored by her much older husband, returns to her paternal home. During a hilarious incident, in which she loses her clothes while bathing in a local pond, she is rescued by a handsome engineer. What follows is a tale of naked lust and regained independence. Machatý injects some pathos into the film’s finale, punishing his heroine for her brief happiness in a puritanical fashion. Given such a pale, unconvincing ending, what lingers instead are the deliciously fleshed-out romance, the subtlety and spunk of Lamar’s performance, and Machatý’s eye for realist detail. Ela Bittencourt (April 14, 7pm; April 20, 7:30pm at MoMA’s “Ecstasy and Irony: Czech Cinema, 1927-1943”)

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