Silent Film Journal

This is the place to talk about films from around the world.

Re: Silent Film Journal

Postby wpqx » Tue Aug 28, 2007 12:46 am

Diary of a Lost Girl (1929) - G. W. Pabst

Every so often I have the urge to start off a review with the phrase "God awful dreck". This is one of those times. Diary of a Lost Girl was the second and FAR INFERIOR film that Pabst did with cult icon Louise Brooks. This picture is infuriating at nearly every turn. Of course in the land of ancient morals we do look at it in context, but with grotesque monstrous caricatures not a single character seems to have any spark of human characteristics. Nearly everyone winds up evil including those who think they're doing good. The film's one grand chance for redemption came in the obligatory "Every thing's going to be fine now" sequence which was dreadfully ruined by an act of unwarranted and undeserved generosity. Hard to begin where to complain with this. I don't want to slight the film itself as there were sequences that gave us much to admire, but the story is just so horribly bad. Rarely have I felt that a film should be remade, but this one most certainly should. I kept yelling at the screen to try and convince the characters to open their damn mouths but to no avail. Endlessly frustrating this film is rightfully eclipsed by the shadow of Pandora's Box a picture that's actually worthy of its reputation. Just plain bad melodramatic hogwash.
wpqx
 


Re: Silent Film Journal

Postby wpqx » Wed Aug 29, 2007 6:09 am

Asphalt (1929) - Joe May

One of the last in the tradition of great German silents this film seemed to take all the atmosphere of expressionism and mixed it with the classic street film, and a little avant-garde ala Berlin: Symphony of a City for good measure. The film is in that heavy style mode that mixes a rather conventional story of the Berlin underworld and jealous lovers. The film does question some of the social excuses for crime in a way that contrasts with the typical "victim" mentality of criminals. The film looks spectacular on almost all accounts and like numerous German films of this period it is much more sexual than the tamer Hollywood films many of these directors would make. May too would join Hollywood where his American "masterpiece" would be The Invisible Man Returns, lets just say his best days were in Germany.
wpqx
 

Re: Silent Film Journal

Postby wpqx » Wed Sep 26, 2007 11:39 pm

The Street (1923) - Karl Grune

Long on my list of films to see I picked this up at the local library in Springfield IL of all places (I'm here for two days). Being a VHS from Video Yesteryear you know you're going to get a well meaning awful transfer. The foreward promised us that this was going to be shown at its correct frame rate, but the deterioration of the negative, not to mention the VHS tape itself was made in 1985 can't provide for much optical entertainment. What is important is the film, and this is a landmark in German film. This gave birth effectively to the street film which reached something of a perfection in Pabst's Joyless Street made two years later. Going along with the general trend in German film at that time Grune uses a very sparse amount of intertitles and relies on visual cues for most of the picture. The only downside is that this film's narrative isn't quite as self explanatory as we would like and its somewhat hard to follow what's going on. Some spectacular lighting and shadows, it certainly fits well within the parameters of the expressionst film.

The plot centers around a middle aged man who goes into something of a mid-life crisis and decides to leave his wife and kids to head into a life in the city. Believing this will break his monotony and enjoying the glamor of the streets he finds himself falling for a prostitute, then losing all his money to her pimps, and finally getting arrested for a murder they committed. Now there is something of a happy ending to all of this but the theme would be replayed again. The most famous film to follow a similar premise is surely The Blue Angel so this film might seem a great juxtaposition to that. Of course this film has no Marlene Dietrich and no Sternberg, but it is effective in what it does. I do long for a respectable Kino restoration of it, or god willing a theatrical re-release. Certainly an important film but as many of this period in German film the style does weigh a little heavier than the substance.
wpqx
 

Re: Silent Film Journal

Postby arsaib4 » Thu Oct 04, 2007 5:37 am

THE CAT AND THE CANARY (U.S. / 1927)

F.W. Murnau wasnt the only German expressionist filmmaker to be imported by Hollywood in the mid-1920s, so was Paul Leni (Waxworks [1924]), who started his American career at Universal with the delightful silent horror-comedy The Cat and the Canary, a classic in every sense of the word. An adaptation of John Willards 1922 play of the same name, this trend-setting "old dark house" film requisitely unfolds in a foggy mansion, here belonging to a millionaire named Cyril West who in his final days vindictively leaves a will with a maturity date of twenty years. When the appropriate moment arrives one stormy night, several potential (and greedy) heirs amass inside the ghastly manor which is now also believed to be hosting the dead mans ghost. Needless to say, the events that follow unveil many surprises, both for us and, more unfortunately so, for the scheming visitors who are compelled to spend the night for selfish reasons. Featuring such silent-era stars as Laura La Plante (who reunited with Leni for 1929s The Last Warning) and Creighton Hale, The Cat and the Canary ostentates a variety of expressionist tendencies throughout its duration-- the prologue in particular is a highlight of visual ingenuity. To his credit, however, Leni doesnt allow his formalism to overshadow (no pun intended) the films compelling narrative arc and its modernist self-deprecating humor (perhaps its no surprise that the effort has been remade nearly half a dozen times). Leni, who started his film career as an art director, only made three more features for Universal (The Chinese Parrot [1927], The Man Who Laughs [1928], and the aforementioned Warning). Much like Murnau, his death was untimely: Leni died in Los Angeles in 1929 at the age of 44.
arsaib4
 

Re: Silent Film Journal

Postby arsaib4 » Thu Oct 04, 2007 5:46 am

Damn you, wpqx! For once I thought that I was in the clear when it comes to a Hollywood classic but apparently you've already introduced the film above. Crap... now I regret not writing something more substantial to supplement your post. Anyway, let me know if it's better to start a thread for it elsewhere.
arsaib4
 

Re: Silent Film Journal

Postby wpqx » Thu Oct 04, 2007 10:42 pm

If you feel like adding to it go for it, unfortunately my memory is already getting foggy in regards to the film (at least the particulars).
wpqx
 

Re: Silent Film Journal

Postby arsaib4 » Fri Oct 05, 2007 1:17 am

If you haven't already, check out two other (and available) Leni gems: Waxworks and The Man Who Laughs.
arsaib4
 

Re: Silent Film Journal

Postby wpqx » Sat Oct 06, 2007 10:26 pm

I've seen Waxworks but not The Man Who Laughs.
wpqx
 

Re: Silent Film Journal

Postby wpqx » Thu Dec 27, 2007 10:04 am

Show People (1928) - King Vidor

Following the motto of one for them one for me, King Vidor apparently made a film for Marion Davies. Davies the infamous mistress of William Randolph Hearst never got a great deal of love in the movies. A very well known figure in her day, who was more or less well known because Hearst's papers repeatedly printed her name and picture. After it became obvious she wasn't going to get the part she deserved, she produced her own film and in 1928 you couldn't get a better director to help you out than King Vidor, who had just made The Crowd. Davies is fantastic and a joy to behold. She gets a lot of room to stretch here and who knew Vidor would be so good at handling comedy? The film was one of a series of backstage Hollywood films that showed the good and bad side of things, frequently with a similar plot structure. Part of this film seems like a parody of What Price Hollywood, except for the fact that this was made four years previous. A host of well known stars make appearances in cameo roles, including Vidor himself who takes turns poking fun of himself as well. Damn shame there weren't more parts like this for Davies, she really was a funny lady.
wpqx
 

Re: Silent Film Journal

Postby wpqx » Wed Jan 16, 2008 6:09 pm

The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) - Lotte Reginer

Once again I'm confronted with a film that I'm surprised took me so long to see. The style of animation, which was just referred to as a silhouette movie was used to some degree in German films of the period, particularly Warning Shadows, but here it is the entire structure of the film. It is not hard to by into it, and the story has been told so many times that there isn't a great deal of difficulty in following along. I'm not sure what if anything is missing in this film vs. the original theatrical release, but I'll take what I can get.
wpqx
 

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