Another Dietrich-von Sternberg film which continues unspooling in the mind long after the final credits. Ditch any 21st century expectations of what makes a great movie - in 'Morocco'. there's no plot to speak of, no tricksy editing and no action sequences. Although the story involves a alleyway mugging by knife-wielding assassins, and an attack on an enemy machine-gun post, these are dealt with in a casual, languid, distant manner, and never allowed to get in the way of von Sternberg's expressionist play of manners.
To contemporary audiences the film is almost laughable. The actors take whole minutes to cross rooms and exchange clipped, enigmatic dialogue; Gary Cooper's Legionnaire Tom Brown seems to be forever arriving and leaving; while Dietrich's Amy is alternately cool as a cucumber or dizzy with pent-up distress. Cooper and Dietrich never ever say what they feel, instead they hide their emotions behind wry smiles, cigarette smoke and banter. Everything is unspoken. And nothing's filmed on location; von Sternerg's Morocco is a country of the imagination, all light and shade, whose shadowy turbaned residents are mostly seen and not heard, and only provide a exotic alien backdrop to the unfulfilled love affair at centre-stage.
The movie contains some classic movie moments - Dietrich in tux and topper, kissing a woman on the lips; the love-scene in the bedroom with Cooper's fan foreplay; the polite dinner party where Dietrich scatters pearls in all directions when she hears the distant drums of the returning army; her distraught and frantic search through the ranks of the wounded soldiers; and the truly astonishing and surreal climax in the wind-whipped sands of the Sahara.