Fanedit Forums

Full Version: TM2YC's 1001 Movies (Chronological up to page 48/post 480)
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
87 years ago...

[Image: 34822701326_18b3fe7e0f_o.jpg]

Blackmail (1929)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Country: United Kingdom
Length: 84 minutes
Type: Silent, Courtroom-Drama, Religous?

'Blackmail' is the first Alfred Hitchcock movie in the book, the first "proper" sound film listed (It was maybe the 3rd or 4th ever full talkie) and the first British film entry. Although the earliest moving pictures were developed in Britain, the decades between those and this are not represented in the book. I plan on watching a few other 1929 British silents but I'd be interested to see what came before.

'Blackmail' began as a silent movie before Hitchcock switched mid-production to sound, re-filming many scenes. As the star Anny Ondra was Czech, this meant that her lines were live "dubbed" by an English actress (Joan Barry). I'm not sure why, because she could speak English well enough, with a light accent and the mis-matched lip movement caused by the dubbing is very distracting. A short clip of Ondra doing a sound test survives, featuring Hitchcock's usual risque humour...

The first 8-minutes are silent, when suddenly a window shatters, beginning the sound and it continues for the rest of the film. I think it was Hitchcock's little joke and perhaps an early "jump scare". Unlike with 'The Jazz Singer', there are no intertitles and sound isn't used as a gimmick but as a story telling device. Like in this scene...

I was surprised that this early entry in Hitchcock's filmography already had his formula set. Murder, secrets, sex, mystery and a chase across a famous landmark (In this case, The British Museum). It's all shot with his familiar brand of macabre humour and his trademark camera moves. A painting appears to laugh at death and the character's misfortunes and a lady speculates aloud about the best ways to commit murder (see clip above). He was probably pushing what were the boundaries of sex and violence on screen at the time. Something that he would continue pushing for the rest of his career.

Back to the world of silence with the next entry, another Soviet film. Fingers crossed! Big Grin

88 years ago...

[Image: 46560428974_0fc78488fb_o.jpg]

Man with a Movie Camera (1929)
Director: Dziga Vertov
Country: Russia
Length: 67 minutes
Type: Silent, Montage, Experimental, Documentary

I was sort of familiar with 'Man with a Movie Camera' because I watched a live performance of Michael Nyman's incredible dreamlike and romantic orchestral score 7-years ago at London's Barbican Theatre. However, for the visuals we were treated to what was called 'NYman with a Movie Camera'. His shot-for-shot remake using footage from his own film archive. So I knew what the experience entailed but had never actually watched the 1929 original. Naturally I choose to watch it now, with the beautiful Nyman score.

'Man with a Movie Camera' has no set story, or conventional characters and is instead an experimental piece of art about the nature of film itself. A dizzying montage of shots, inviting the viewer to see the connections, or draw their own. Blinking eyes, window shutters, a camera iris, an eyeball, a camera lens. Trams pass back and forth across the screen, until we start to see the windows as film cells/strips. Film speeds up, stops, and goes super slowmo, making us aware of it's illusion of movement. A childbirth is intercut with a funeral. The cameraman of the title hops all over the city with his massive tripod camera like a Freerunner with a GoPro. Balanced on moving cars, atop bridges, hanging from wires, clutching to the side of a moving train. We see him filming us, as an audience watches him, as we watch them.

You can't take it all in on one viewing but at least I've finally found a Soviet silent movie I can love.

The first entry in the book by G.W. Pabst is next.
A young-looking Hitchcock will never not be weird to me. I always assumed he was born an old, fat man.
88 years ago...

[Image: 34172698974_3b063dd6b4_o.jpg]

Pandora's Box (1929)
Director: G. W. Pabst
Country: Germany
Length: 108 minutes
Type: Silent, Drama

Louise Brooks in 'Pandora's Box' (Die Büchse der Pandora) is as entrancing as the Lulu character she plays. Pabst invited Brooks over from America especially to play the role. Lulu is a muse, a dancer, a lover, a prostitute and a flame around which moths will happily burn. She is carefree but also careless and drags all around her to ruin but she is not evil, she just doesn't consider consequences to herself, or others.

[Image: 34884209721_0bf4036fbe_o.jpg]

The rest of the cast are uniformly brilliant too. Carl Goetz plays Lulu's father? pimp? ex-lover? (or all three?), a bum just happy to come along for the ride and to revel in other's misfortunes. Alice Roberts plays the Lesbian Countess Geschwitz, who along with all the men, has a fatalistic obsession with Lulu. The characters start at the top of Berlin society but by the last act are reduced to eating mouldy bread and drinking booze out of broken teacups on a cold London Christmas Eve. 'Pandora's Box' is a haunting tale of murder, rape, cheating, lying and misfortune... but also beauty and romance too. It's another film that goes straight onto my 'All-time classics list".

Afterwards, I watched this old Arena documentary on Brooks, which I'd highly recommend. Boy can she tell an anecdote!

An early Marlene Dietrich movie next.
87 years ago...

[Image: 34678725740_ee963bb20c_o.jpg]

The Blue Angel (1930)
Director: Josef von Sternberg
Country: Germany
Length: 99 minutes
Type: Drama

The blu-ray for 'The Blue Angel' ('Der Blaue Engel') has both the German and English sound versions of the film (They shot everything twice) but I went for the German release (with English subtitles). I believe a silent version was also released but I can't find any copies. It's another step forward for sound film, but notably lacking a score (I assume this was for technical reasons). I found myself really missing the kind of lush orchestral scores that were used in earlier German silent films. However there are musical sequences, including Marlene Dietrich's now famous "theme song"...

Emil Jannings plays the uptight Professor Rath, who finds his students sharing "indecent" photos of a local Cabaret star Lola (Played by Dietrich). He storms down to the cabaret (the titular 'Blue Angel') to confront her and his students but ends up falling for young Lola. He recklessly throws away his career and standing in society to be with her ("There's no fool like an old fool"). By the end Rath's humiliation and degradation take him to the very limit of despair and he emits these truly horrible wails of anguish. These sounds demonstrate something new that silent films could never have done. It's very much a companion piece to Jannings' earlier 'The Last Man', this time winning him the first Oscar for Best Actor.

Another surrealist film next.
86 years ago...

[Image: 34968232421_217e7b207e_o.jpg]

The Golden Age (1930)
Director: Luis Buñuel
Country: France
Length: 63 minutes
Type: Silent, Surrealist, Comedy

'The Golden Age' ('L'Age d'Or') is the surrealist follow up from Luis Buñuel, to his short film 'An Andalusian Dog'. Some limited soundFX and a few snatches of dialogue are here but it's essentially another silent movie. The same sort of thing that delighted at 16 minutes, when stretched to an hour, gets a bit tedious around the middle.

Thankfully, enjoyment recovers in the second half when the focus shifts to a high-society party featuring "The Man" committing spectacular social indiscretions. Such as... kicking a puppy out of frame, knocking over a blind man, shooting a child in the back for taking his cigarette, mud wrestling a woman during a religious ceremony, then slapping her mother full-force in the face for spilling his sherry, and later a throwing a burning Christmas tree out of a window, followed by a bishop and a giraffe. I had some real laugh-out-loud moments with this unfeasibly awful character. The best bits edited down to something like 30 minutes would be a riot, instead of a bit of a chore.

Another Soviet film next. The Berlin wall can't fall fast enough.
86 years ago...

[Image: 34296975894_0b9ca60fb1_o.jpg]

Earth (1930)
Director: Alexander Dovzhenko
Country: Ukraine (Then part of the Soviet Union)
Length: 76 minutes
Type: Silent, Propaganda, Drama

'Earth' ('Zemlya') is another Soviet propaganda film which is considerably more enjoyable and more conventional than the others I've watched so far. That said, the underlying propaganda message is more insidious and malevolent. It's aim is to portray peasants who still owned their own small scrap of land (and a couple of cows) as being enemies of the people, in not giving what little they had, over to the new Soviet collectivist farm system. Stalin had already begun killing and imprisoning these peasants (Kulaks) in their millions as the film was being made.

The questionable political context aside, it's an emotional story about triumph over adversity. Beautiful shots of farms and countryside. Strong characters. The joy of a hard days work, when you've accomplished something. In this case, the process of turning a field of wheat, into loaves of bread.

The first true American Gangster movie next!
86 years ago...

[Image: 35185218895_1cb18b5f5b_o.jpg]

Little Caesar (1931)
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Country: United States
Length: 79 minutes
Type: Drama, Crime, Gangster

'Little Caesar' is considered the first US Gangster film, the twisted version of the American dream. The template is here, the violent arrogant rise and the hubristic fall. Edward G. Robinson's lead performance is very good, even if his Gangster accent is a corny (He seemed to end every sentence with "...see"). He is deliberately the spit of Al Capone, the infamous "St. Valentine's Day Massacre" having occurred less than a year before the 'Little Caesar' was released.

[Image: 34375865693_ee3d39c8a8_c.jpg]

Supporting actors Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Glenda Farrell aren't particularly good but they don't ruin the picture. The direction is sometimes flat (No doubt due to sound recording issues) but LeRoy also uses some memorable Scorsese-like gliding camera moves. On that note, there are more than a few shots that are directly referenced in later Gangster films like 'The Godfather'.

'All Quiet on the Western Front' next.
87 years ago...

[Image: 34498387023_ffb79a3bce_o.jpg]

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Director: Lewis Milestone
Country: United States
Length: 153 minutes (2.5 hours)
Type: (Anti-)War, Drama

'All Quiet on the Western Front' is probably the most purely anti-war, war-movie that I've seen so far. There is nothing heroic about anything here, nothing noble, it's all a senseless and pointless waste of life. Even Kubrick's powerful 1957 'Paths of Glory' (One of my favourite films) has a couple of heroic/moral characters and a sense of good and evil. At the time, Variety magazine wrote "The League of Nations could make no better investment than to buy up the master-print, reproduce it in every language, to be shown in all the nations until the word "war" is taken out of the dictionaries". Needless to say they didn't and by the end of the decade, the world would be back to killing each other on mass.

It opens with a school teacher essentially recruiting the young boys in his class for war, telling them how glorious it is and quoting what WWI poet Wilfred Owen called "The old lie". We then follow the class as they are slaughtered, or maimed, one by one across the length of the film. The last survivor makes a return to the school room just before the end, disgusted as he finds the same teacher recruiting another class of young boys. Another key scene has the soldiers sitting around trying to figure out if any of them even know why they are at war?

The camera work and editing (especially during the battle scenes) is little different to how you'd shoot a large scale war movie now. The incredibly sharp transfer on the blu-ray adds to the feeling of it being ageless. Only the primitive sound keeps this from feeling thoroughly modern. The mono track has a constant background crackle and while the shell impacts during the battle are suitably loud, it doesn't have the kind of multilayered soundscape we expect from a war film nowadays. Perhaps when the 100th Anniversary rolls round in 2030, Universal could use all the digital tricks to create a new alternate 5.1 mix (just for variety). I've had this blu-ray on my shelf for a couple of years but hadn't got round to watching it... exactly why I challenged myself with this list! Big Grin

Two Rene Clair musical comedies next.
Got round to watching The Birth of A Nation, fir the first time since film class. It was easier to sit through this time as my Film Teacher wasn't there to enforce a no music or score rule. (He was obsessed with showing silent films in complete silence. So I wasn't completely disinterested this time.

The Battle Scenes toward the end of the first act were freaking phenomenal. The part where two chums from opposite sides meet on the battlefield and die in each other's arms was heartbraking. It really showcased just how ugly the civil war was. "Brother will kill brother" as Dave Mustaine once whailed.

I couldn't help but be reminded of The Patriot. Another big budget psuedo-propaganda film that plays fast and loose with history in order to satisfy fetishised national  propaganda. Also the parallel between The Little Colonel blocking the canon with a confederate flag, and Mel Gibson impaling Lucius Malfoy with a union flag, was too hard to ignore.
Like all propaganda, it is infectious. You must be on your guard when watching this, reminding yourself "This is wrong" The second you remotely sympathise with Griffith's intentions, you need to check yourself before you wreck yourself. The last thing people should be saying when watching these historical white-washes is "Oh, so that's what it was like, back then..."

I was actually impressed with Griffith's portrayal of Lincoln, as a good and humble man, desperately trying to hold his country together.

Theeeeeen Part 2 begins. And once again, it was a chore to sit through. I'd like to point out that throughout this entire 3 hour long opus, Griffith addresses the issue of slavery briefly at the very beginning of the film.

This gave Griffith a chance to do what all racists try to do, make their insane ravings sound reasonable. These blacks now have more rights than whites. They're uneducated and don't even want the freedoms we have imposed upon them. When blacks get freedom, they won't bring their best. They'll bring drugs, they'll bring crime, they're rapists, and some, Griffith assumes, are good people. Slavery? What slavery?

Also, Woodrow Wilson's words of appreciation in the interlude might be the most sickeningly abhorent thing a U.S. President has said... But that wouldn't nearly be true.

The horse chase scenes in the third act would be breathtaking if it wasnt portrayed as the most heroic lynching of all time.

This is a movie ripe for fanediting. Cut off in the middle, briefly montage through the important info for a satisfying conclusion. Cut all the white-washing and most the black-facing.

Fuck Griffith and fuck this dreck. How people didn't see this coming after he made "His Trust" is beyond me.

I propose we replace this film with Cabiria as the "First epic to watch". It might have portrayed the Carthaginians one dimensionally evil, but the consequences of that are much less severe. It's ancient history. Tunisians of today share little in common with their Carthaginian ancestors. Also, the main instance of black face in the film isn't completely horrible, as the character has layers, and became an Italian National Hero soon after. It'd like Welles in Othello, I can let it slide if it's at least tries to be tasteful.

Whereas THIS is most certainly dangerous, as we have seen with its revival of the KKK, who proudly marched through D.C. under Wilson's smiling gaze.
(06-15-2017, 12:10 PM)Zamros Wrote: [ -> ]my Film Teacher wasn't there to enforce a no music or score rule. (He was obsessed with showing silent films in complete silence.

Why would you do that?!? The music is an integral part of the film. Conveying emotion, tone, proxy sound effects and well everything. Here is a nice little video about silent music...