3 Stars out of 4
EXCLUSIVE TO SHORTCUTS!
This will sound absurd, but The Last Laugh is one of those unprecedented silent films that goes its whole duration with very little dialogue. It is directed by F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu) who manifests the film with a mobile camera, whipping from one point to another to give the film a feeling of urgency. And even in one shot, the mobility embodies the pathway of sound.
The Last Laugh is nothing much in story, but it forms a simple yet genuine heart around a hotel doorman, played by Emil Jannings. His performance carried so much poignancy and tender complexities that America summoned his talent and gave way to a great career (Jannings would appear in Quo Vadis? and The Blue Angel).
The Last Laugh was hailed during the 1920s as the greatest film ever made. That was Murnau’s tagline and incentive into directing Sunrise – produced by an American corporation, Fox. As a silent film, I prefer Sunrise and I am not sure if The Last Laugh deserves a “greatest” term. When you think the film should end, it doesn’t. It spirals into a final segment, where our friend the doorman receives some poetic justice and a last laugh.
I wish instead of jumping to this arbitrary end, we found out how we got there. Murnau’s visual style is coming to life and The Last Laugh has remnants of genius. But there is something very important in seeing how the last laugh arises to make us laugh too - and if Murnau is good enough (he is), make us cry.