AMC + Class Viewings For The Week
I hate writing about films before my time because I feel profoundly uncomfortable writing about something out of context (of course I never try to research it into context, but that's another story). Shroomy's convinced me to post on some of the older films I see recently, both on AMC and in a couple of my film classes. My first post of this got borked, so as well as excusing my poor, brief writings in the first place, this second post in even briefer and poorer.
(d. Murnau, 1926): D+
Murnau uses Moliere's play to make a film inside a film (which has gotta be a first for a film this early) about hypocrisy (specifically swindling money from wealthy people using a disguise). It is overwhelmingly simple in its themes and features some truly horrendous comic timing which stretches the 76min runtime to near infinity. Still, Murnau has a good dozen or so fine utilization of comedic close-ups, and Emil Jannings as a religious cult leader does all he can to be funny despite Murnau’s mishandling. Also has some interesting lighting, especially stylized candle lighting well before Barry Lyndon
(d. Ford, 1950): B-
How’s this for a disclaimer?: I don’t like Westerns, the only other Ford I’ve seen is Grapes of Wrath
, and I don’t like John Wayne. Still, this film was effective. The plot and the action were rather bland, but it has a very interesting theme on the duality of manhood between family and work/army/country/duty/whatever and carries some very subtle subtexts that should have been expanded on (especially how the mother/son relationship effects the father). Some terrific compositions, great performance by Wayne and some solid iconic imagery round the film out as a “coulda been.” Or maybe I need to see more Wayne/Ford/Westerns.
(d. DeMille, 1915): B+
Highly enjoyable melodrama that could be disturbingly racist if the heroine of the film wasn’t actually much, much morally worse than the evil Japanese villain. Actually, despite superficial appearances the film isn’t all that racist at all, but the fact that heroic woman is actually more despicable than the principle rapist in the film is a fascinating cinematic decision, I wonder if it went unnoticed at time of release. Fun, if simple, costume/set coding to typify the principles, but what do you expect in 1915? Funky, dark, pretty racey for the time, pretty racist for our time, and wonderfully morally confused, this was a great silent.
I also saw Lubitsch’s The Student Prince of Heidelberg
(1927), an absolutely superb romantic comedy of who’s details are quickly receding (I saw it about two weeks ago), but it is hilariously funny and very well made and has a darker, surprisingly realistic ending that totally threw me (and the class) for a loop.