Lemper, a star in her own right, pays homage to an amazing woman, a great cinema star, a cabaret performer supreme, one who loved life to the full yet ended her days a sad, lonely recluse in this absolutely stunning film. Dietrich is, along with Mae West, along with Mae West, has been imitated by drag queens galore who usually get the look but seldom the woman. Lemper is far to great an artist for that. The scene is the Club Cumming in New York, she is performing her own act, songs associated with Dietrich, and slips in and out of character, sometimes herself, sometimes Marlene as she tells how in 1987 she was starring in Cabaret in Paris and was called the new Dietrich. On a whim she sent Dietrich a note to apologise for the comparisons and a little later she received a phone call. Marlene had tracked her down. Lonely, housebound, she spent her life on the telephone calling the great. the good and the unknown. It is that call Lemper recreates with impeccable skill slipping in and out of character with a change of wrap or just a look. They never spoke again, but over the years she has sung some of Marlene’s songs as a cabaret artist and in 1992 she was Lola in a production of Blue Angel in Berlin. It opened six days after Dietrich.
Dietrich knew her craft as a screen actress and when that ended her partnership with Burt Bacharach resulted in an even more fabulous creation, the figure in the skin tight sequined gown, the epitome of glamour, one achieve at appalling cost. Lemper as Dietrich recalls her work, delivers a devastating list of her lovers, male and female – Judy Garland turned her down – and we hear about her difficult relationship with her daughter, Maria Riva. Motherhood was not one of her talents and the daughter’s life of Marlene did not please the great lady one little bit. It is, actually, a rather good read and Riva in person was charming and just enough like her mother in appearance for it to be one of those haunting interviews.
Marlene as the cabaret star was imperious. You got the show and that was that. It finished, there was a final tantalising curtain call and the audience headed for the stage door and autographs. But the film is as much about Lemper and her own love of the works of the Weimar years. It lasts for just over two hours and proves an enthralling experience – the price of being a screen godess was very high and Dietrich paid it. She was showered with honours, had a distinguished war time career entertaining the troops all over the world in every way possible, was vilified by the Nazis and for a long time by her fellow countrymen, knew and slept with the great and the powerful, and in spite of it all ended up as the lonely recluse worried about being able to pay the rent in her Paris flat. They never met, as Lemper did not call Dietrich back but she does her justice in this enthralling bitter sweet film.
The film is being streamed
7pm Thursday 19 November 2020
1pm Wednesday 25 November 2020
7pm Saturday 5 December 2020
all UK times.
Vana Gierig,Jesse Mills, Matthew Parrish, Todd Turkisher, Tim Ouimette
The booking link is
Tickets cost £25
Photograph: Russ Rowland