D W Griffith

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Re: D W Griffith

Postby wpqx » Mon Aug 13, 2007 8:12 pm

The Avenging Conscience (1914)

When hearing the phrase "silent movie" we don't quite think of them as silent. I picked up The Avenging Conscience on VHS courtesy of Grapevine video and the film really is silent. There isn't even a score on the film, and that can have a surprising effect. I watched Paul Frejos's Lonesome earlier today and that had a poorly tacked on score of classical music that didn't seem to fit the film, but at least it gave it some rhythm. Without any score, ill-fitting or not it can be hard to follow a film. At least when there's no score or dialog, thus hammering home how important music can be in a film. This film another of Griffith's early ventures into feature film territory is about a man who reads a little too much Edgar Allen Poe. He is given the choice between marrying the girl he loves and inheriting his uncle's fortune. He chooses love, but love doesn't choose him. So spitefully he murders his uncle, and puts his body behind a brick wall, but hears his heart beating until he goes crazy. The girl stricken with grief over what she did winds up trying to throw herself off a cliff. Of course there's more to it, and the ending isn't that dreadful. The film did prove however to be an enormous influence on many films after it, and much was appropriated by the German's during the next decade. Not one of his best remembered films, but one well worth hunting out, and I'll likely keep my eyes peeled for a restored edition with a soundtrack, because this was hardly the most pristine of editions.
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Re: D W Griffith

Postby wpqx » Tue Jul 08, 2008 10:51 pm

The Hearts of the World, from the silent film journal thread. Sorry forgot about the Griffith thread temporarily.
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Re: D W Griffith

Postby wpqx » Fri Jul 11, 2008 11:35 pm

The Mother and the Law (1914-1919)

This film had quite the strange fate. Shot relatively quickly after Birth of a Nation was completed the film was not released immediately following promotional tours for Birth. After that film proved so successful Griffith decided that small films were out and his next film (and all others) must be huge and epic, so The Mother and the Law was quickly absorbed into Intolerance. New scenes were shot, some were cut, and the film was done, or so he thought. Intolerance was too epic so this story again had to be trimmed, so more scenes were redone and re-edited and put in Intolerance. When that film proved unsuccessful the idea to release this story individually was done to help recoup some of the losses. So Griffith again shot some new scenes and re-edited the film restoring some of the cut footage and changing others. This new, new version finally hit theaters in 1919 and surprise it wasn't successful either. Being an immense fan of Intolerance I've always believed that the contemporary story was the best part of the film. However with the entire story here it almost seems too much, not in a really over the top way but the tragedy is heaped on mighty thick here. Parents die, lovers go to jail, babies are taken away, and intolerance precedes everything. There is still an enormous emotional power in the film, but cut with three other stories it is far more compelling than this individual slice. Perhaps Griffith should have left well enough alone. Mae Marsh tries a little too hard at the beginning to seem young and innocent and it comes off a little creepy and condescending. Many of the other performances suffer from that lack of credibility and excess common that so many people criticize silent films for. Worthy on its own merits this probably should have been included with the DVD release of Intolerance to give people the option of comparing.
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Re: D W Griffith

Postby wpqx » Fri Jul 18, 2008 8:45 pm

The Sorrows of Satan (1926)

My first experience seeing a Griffith film in a theater was not entirely a success. The film was shown with no musical accompaniment, started late, and the film itself caught fire three times. I got the impression during the film that Griffith might be the most moral of all filmmakers. There is always a side and agenda coming through, which makes Intolerance all the more interesting because there he's moralizing moralizers. Now no Griffith film would be complete without a lengthy and wordy prologue, and here we see Satan being cast out of heaven and told that he'll have an hour at the gates of paradise for every soul that resists him. So now we have our story. Two young would be writers live across from each other in a low rent boarding house. They obviously love one another but have little to show for their literary aspirations. One night they have rolls and coffee (all they can afford) and the man suddenly gets aggressive, trying his hardest to be invited back into the girl's room. She confesses his love and next thing you know they've slept with each other, quite scandalous for 1926. The next day they plan on getting married, get the license and everything seems great, even the girl sold one of her stories. The man goes to pick up a check for reviewing other people's books when he's told that his services are no longer necessary. Believing money is the only thing that matters he offers to sell his soul to any devil that'll buy. It got a laugh out of the audience when Adolphe Menjou suddenly appears telling him about a rich old uncle that just died. So he wines and dines him and introduces him to a cardboard cutout vamp named Princess Olga. Suddenly he must think of his position and leaves the girl behind and of course the age old "be careful what you wish for" nonsense pops up and tragedy has to strike before redemption. The films most impressive sequence comes when a car takes away the man and the woman tries yelling at him in a great montage that shows Griffith could compete with the Russians he helped inspire. The film is typical heavy handed griffith.
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