Foolish Wives is less a comedy than a mockery, taking as its targets the moral underpinnings of society; the sanctity of marriage; love’s purity; masculinity; femininity; and, of course, the aristocratic elite. A cursory glance at von Stroheim’s filmography reveals these as reoccurring preoccupations: compulsive concerns that the director never tired of holding a mirror up to and revealing the hypocrisy that lay beneath a virtuous façade. Von Stroheim’s laughter is sadistic. He derives pleasure from exposing the fraudulent virtues of others, even though he, more than anyone, is complicit in the widespread corruption.
Cullen Gallagher is a Brooklyn-based writer, musician, and curator whose work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Life Sentence, Moving Image Source, Bright Lights Film Journal, Beat to a Pulp, NoirCon, Crimefactory, Film Comment, The L Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, Fandor, Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Hammer to Nail, Spinetingler, Between Lavas, Reverse Shot, and Guitar Review. He records instrumental music as Modern Silent Cinema and plays in the hardcore band Night Squad.