More of a dramatic piece than a concert, Ute Lemper (once described as “the new Marlene”) brings back the memory of the progressive woman, “Hollywood icon, chanteuse, soldier”, through song and speech. The woman who phoned her out of the blue back in the 80s, bringing their stories together in this touching show. This is Ute Lemper – Rendezvous With Marlene.
Sumptuously filmed with high production values, Lemper’s show, running at over two hours, is a feast for the eyes and ears. From the first note of ‘Falling in Love Again’ (sung in German and English), we are in the presence of a practiced cabaret performer celebrating one of the very best. There is love up here on the screen and it shows.
I recall first seeing Lemper performing the catalogue of Kurt Weill. Her phrasing and deep connection to the music was apparent, and evoked memories of the singing of Lotte Lenya in works such as Die Dreigroschenoper. Now in glamorous late middle age, she has grown in style and stature.
Dietrich, of course, is iconic, whether in recordings, on the screen, or as a woman (androgynous, bisexual, polygamous, brave, outspoken, beautiful). Her image from all those black and white photographs, and her deep, husky voice, are instantly recognisable. You can believe she chatted to world leaders from her reclusive home in her final years.
Rendezvous with Marlene is perfect late night viewing, filmed in locked-down New York. Lemper displays a warm intimacy with her band and despite a lack of live audience, engages with the online viewers. Dietrich herself appeared a little more aloof in concert footage late in life, but this is no simple imitation. It is a snapshot in a remarkable life that made an impression on a young performer.
As an admirer of both women, I jumped at the chance to review this film. It inevitably loses that magical atmosphere and power which comes with live theatre and sharing a moment with other audience members and the performers, but Lemper’s respect for her subject is evident throughout and her own brand of allure and musical talent will keep audiences enthralled.
Ute Lemper – Rendezvous With Marlene, filmed at Club Cumming in New York with Alan Cumming and Ute Lemper as producers, will be streamed globally on three evenings. Thu 19 November at 7pm (UK time), Wed 25 November at 1am, and Sat 5 December at 7pm.