No woman in the history of movies has had nearly as many delirious, beauty-mad, metaphor-clotted canticles written about her as Greta Garbo—what else can you say? Except that this most singular of golden-age stars has somehow remained so mysterious and indescribably enchanting that she’s come to personify what is essentially beautiful, pleasurable, and desire-drunk about cinema. Commonly considered in reference books as her own auteur, Garbo had a unique relationship with nitrate—it was, seemingly, her only intimate—and even her mediocre films are studiable cases of movieness blooming in the limbic system like an uncut opiate. This Warner gift box is virtually definitive. In addition to seven of Garbo’s most famous talkies—Anna Christie (1930), Grand Hotel (1932), Mata Hari (1932), Queen Christina (1933), Anna Karenina (1935), Camille (1936), and Ninotchka (1939)—there come five additional features: three of her silents (1926’s Flesh and the Devil and The Temptress, 1928’s The Mysterious Lady), a compare-contrast version of Camille shot in 1921, with Alla Nazimova, and the contemporaneous German version of Anna Christie, directed by Jacques Feyder. Also, nine minutes of the lost film The Divine Woman, TCM docs, alternate endings, trailers, newsreels, parodic shorts, radio promos, etc., for a total of 10 discs.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 13, 2005