Essential Silent Films

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Re: Essential Silent Films

Postby john-5 » Wed Feb 20, 2002 1:08 pm

Excellent suggestions as usual,Katsuben.Yes,i'd understood Ingeborg Holm and He Who gets Slapped to be among the better silent films but haven't seen them yet(both are in my little notebook of must-sees,some films are of course easier to get to see than others,and for all the ones i've managed to see there are still plenty in store).

Re: Essential Silent Films

Postby katsuben » Tue Feb 26, 2002 11:07 am

i thought i better correct RESCUED BY ROVER's date to 1905 (d: Lewin Fitzhamon). i'm yet to see THE CHEAT (DeMille, 1915) which seems to remain an important film. i guess BALLET MECANIQUE (1924, Leger/Murphey) "deserves" to be here too...?

Re: Essential Silent Films

Postby wvq » Tue Apr 16, 2002 2:59 am

I've seen about 80% of your list, so I feel I can say something about it. Overall, it looks pretty good. That said, let's commence the caviling.

First of all, I guess we disagree about the importance of von Stroheim. (You even handed Victor Sjostrom the credit for directing Greed!) He has his faults--at the moment, what stands out is his occasionally grating use of overt symbolism--and we don't have the films he intended us to see (and, of course, the fact that he didn't have much input into the final cuts of his films complicates our sense of him as a director). Still, he stands out to me as a major figure, and I'd keep Greed on this list and add both Foolish Wives and Queen Kelly. (I'm not sure whether you've seen the recent restoration of Greed--you know, the one with the stills--but I wholeheartedly recommend it.)

Second, Lang's silents. I suppose I ought to preface this by saying that Lang is way up there in my personal pantheon (M might be my favorite film and I share that Cahiers-inspired mania for his American period), but I don't share the widespread enthusiasm for Metropolis. Maybe I'd change my mind if I saw a nice print in a theatrical setting, but I'm currently inclined to doubt it. There's no question that it succeeds as spectacle and that it's a masterpiece of architectural design, but I'm afraid it just seems woefully shallow to me. Of course, it might just be that it seems intellectually jejune when compared to M, and I guess making such a comparison would be unfair, as I consider that film a model of intellectual depth and clarity in the cinema. Or it could just be that I'm skeptical due to the cult status of Metropolis; you know, maybe it's just my cinematic snobbishness rearing its ugly head. So, what should we put here instead? We've gotta have something by Lang: there's no question that he's a major silent film director. Unfortunately, I'm not really qualified to say. (I must say it's more than a bit embarrassing to admit.) I've seen Spies, which I enjoyed quite a bit, but, although it's a nice thriller, it just doesn't seem to have the depth or historical importance to warrant a spot here. And, honestly, that's all I've seen at the moment. I plan to watch Siegfried and Kriemhilde's Revenge here pretty soon, and I hope to get my hands on that new DVD edition of Dr. Mabuse, Der Spieler, so maybe I'll be able to add something before too long.

A few films that I think belong on a list like this:

1. Vertov's Kino-Eye. It's been a while since I saw this, but it was an extremely pleasurable experience. It's not quite the visual feast that Man with the Movie Camera is, but what is?
2. Pabst's Joyless Street. Honestly, I think this far outstrips Pandora's Box. This film reminds me of Mizoguchi's Sisters of the Gion in its depiction of how two different women react to the terrible options provided to them by the society in which they live, and it even seems to display some of that palpable anger that I associate with those early Mizoguchi dramas. (Of course, maybe my previous acquaintance with Mizoguchi led me to read something into the film that wasn't there, as just about everyone else I saw the film with--I saw it in a classroom environment--thought it was nothing more than a piece of rank didacticism intended to convey the following moral to young German girls: be good bourgeois ladies or you'll end up whores.)
3. Murnau's Tabu. It deserves to be on here for its ending alone (which is of more value than the whole of Nosferatu as far as I'm concerned). The rest of it is pretty good too.
4. The cream separator scene from Eisenstein's The General Line/Old and New.


Re: Essential Silent Films

Postby johndav » Tue Apr 16, 2002 7:31 am

Very interesting and informative!Yes,Tabu is excellent-lovely lyricism.Did think of including it;perhaps i should have made my list longer!?Agree that Metropolis' message is shallow,but i love the visual impact.M makes far more interesting political and social points,certainly,and you're far from alone in thinking it Lang's best(it's also highly placed in this site's top 100,i see).No,i've not seen the updated Greed.I very much enjoyed Queen Kelly,but the version i saw was hardly the full film-horribly cut out in its prime.Where did the film go?,i wondered.Haven't seen Joyless Street,understand it's one of Pabst's best.Like many i enjoy Pandora's Box mainly for Brooks' wonderful,vivacious performance and her luminous beauty but it has its other strong points-the lighting is expert and the editing and mise-en-scene rather more clever than i'd initially realised.Still,some elements do seem a little dated.The British Film Institute 360 classics list preferred Pabst's Secrets of the Soul to Joyless Street,if i remember rightly,but its selections were extremely idiosyncratic,and my reading's given the impression Joyless Street is better.Glad to be learning;i'm no great expert on silent films,just have a range of interests;something of a jack of all trades(and master of none)!I fling out my lists hoping for informed responses like yours.

Re: Essential Silent Films

Postby wpqx » Sat Dec 28, 2002 2:10 am

You do seem to have a list of a film course's viewing schedule. I would personally add my favorite Keaton film Steamboat Bill Jr. as well as Lon Chaney's Hunchback of Notre Dame. Pardon me if I just missed these on your list. Also consider checking out Chaplin's The Circus, arguably the most underrated film in his collection.

Re: Essential Silent Films

Postby Gaz » Sat Dec 28, 2002 10:04 am

Anything by Keaton - I haven't seen Sherlock Jr since I was about 8 but it remains a favourite. The Navigator is also a masterpiece.

Re: Essential Silent Films

Postby bigpoppa_2059 » Fri Feb 07, 2003 5:52 am

Ten Essential silent films:

Passion of Joan of Arc
Battleship Potemkin
I Was Born, But...
Birth of a Nation
The Last Laugh
Sherlock Jr. & The General
The Gold Rush & Modern Times
Pandora's Box
The Lodger

Re: Essential Silent Films

Postby bigpoppa_2059 » Fri Feb 21, 2003 7:03 am

I think Von Stroheim's "Greed" is one of the greatest films ever made that should be seen by every soul before his/her death to see what cinema can achieve.

Re: Essential Silent Films

Postby gratefultiger » Sun Mar 16, 2003 9:58 pm

ah you're only saying it because it's true!:)

Re: Essential Silent Films

Postby manicmo » Wed Apr 30, 2003 1:12 am

Getting back to Buster Keaton, I am on the lookout for his experimental shorts made in the 50's, one I remember located in the downtown streets of Manhattan when it was poor and desolate. Does anyone know the name of this or other works,written by Beckett as I recall?


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