"Marlene" is no standard movie-star documentary. It is a mystery story, a discourse on truth and fiction, a battle with a sacred monster, a caustic comedy of errors, and the story of the making of a film, all rolled into one. After years of public silence, the legendary Dietrich personally selected Maximilian Schell to make an interview film about her. Schell saw a golden opportunity to penetrate an enigma: he soon found himself locked in a battle royal. Marlene refused to let him photograph her or even her apartment. She was openly contemptuous of his questions and refused to answer many of them. Schell is candid enough tomake himself the butt of his own film, an increasingly comic, exasperated figure with whom Marlene toys much like one of the femmes fatales she portrayed so masterfully on the screen. Schell fills out the image track with wonderful excerpts of her performances and often bizarre representations of his own dilemma. But dominating the film is Marlene herself, her disembodied voice only heightening her mystique - querulous, witty, provocative, revealing and moving. It quickly becomes apparent that the friction between director and star is not the film's liability but its saving grace, rescuing it from conventionality and turning it into a unique, multi-leveled and richly entertaining record of an encounter with a real-life legend.