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Full Version: TM2YC's 1001 Movies (Chronological up to page 48/post 480)
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85 years ago...

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Freedom for Us (1931)
Director: René Clair
Country: France
Length: 89 minutes (1.5 hours)
Type: Musical-Comedy, Satire

Of the two René Clair films in the book, 'Freedom for Us' ('À Nous la Liberté') is listed first (Possibly an alphabetical error?) but was actually released 8-months before his next listed film, 'The Million'. This movie is easily the best of the two but they are both very enjoyable. Both are Musical-Comedies, not really full Musicals, just Comedies with music woven in. The theme song is damn catchy and I can't get it outta my head.

The film is both a magical romance and a satire of industry and modern life. Both aspects are woven together with a wonderfully light touch. It's packed with clever little visual gags and sophisticated jokes involving the new sound medium. The plot follows two mischievous and free-spirited ex-convicts, as one somehow rises to the top echelons of Capitalist society, while the other just dreams through life, blind to all but love. Henri Marchand as Emile is just brilliant with his big child-like eyes and gentle spirit.

For reasons best known to Clair, he "George Lucas-ed" the film 20 years after it's release and edited out two brilliant and essential scenes (IMO). Unfortunately my Criterion DVD presents Clair's later/shorter cut but the two scenes are included as bonus materials, so I was able to watch them at the appropriate moments. This is one of the missing scenes featuring a delightful visual/sound joke involving a flower. In the cut version, the daydreaming Emile is just immediately arrested as soon as the scene starts...

This poor quality youtube upload is the uncut Italian version, so at least I could see where they went...

Next up is Clair's previous film Big Grin .
86 years ago...

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The Million (1931)
Director: René Clair
Country: France
Length: 81 minutes
Type: Musical-Comedy, Farce

'The Million' ('Le Million') is a lesser film on many levels to 'Freedom for Us' but it's still a lot of fun and has some unique stuff. It opens in spectacular fashion with a force-perspective shot that blew me away. I rewound it a few times but couldn't see precisely how it was done. If the shot was static, I could figure it out easy enough but the camera starts on the actors and then glides across what is clearly a fantastical imaginary model shot of the Paris skyline and then pans onto different real actors... all in one unbroken shot. It'd be difficult enough with computer driven motion-control rigs. Probably it's a surprisingly simple magicians trick but those are the cinema FX that I love the best Smile .

After that, it settles down into a fairly standard but energetic farce format based around a missing jacket and the lottery ticket it has in the pocket. A few of the same actors from 'Freedom for Us' show up here in minor parts. A truly beautiful scene towards the end has two young lovers discussing their feelings but we cannot hear the words. What makes it clever is an opera is going on and the lyrics exactly match what we imagine the lovers are saying to each other. Another good scene has the scuffles for the jacket sound-tracked by a Rugby match. I noted the similarity to a couple of Marx Brothers jokes. Two René Clair films down and I'm now a fan! I look forward to seeing more of his work in future. It's time Criterion re-issued their Clair DVDs in a blu-ray boxset.

Next up is F.W. Murnau's final film.
(06-15-2017, 05:51 PM)TM2YC Wrote: [ -> ]
(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.

I gave up asking why early in that class. Why can't we watch this with the music? Why am I writing my final essay on Brendan Frasier's The Mummy? Why are you lobbing tables across the room?
85 years ago...

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Tabu: A Story of the South Seas (1931)
Director: F.W. Murnau
Country: United States
Length: 84 minutes
Type: Silent, Drama, "Docufiction"

'Tabu' began as a co-venture between F.W. Murnau and 'Nanook of the North' Director Robert J. Flaherty and has shades of that film's pseudo-Documentary style. Flaherty was quickly sidelined and Murnau delivers a more traditionally narrative based film, although acted by and crewed by the South Seas islanders themselves to add that veneer of reality. For various reasons it's a late silent film with almost no intertitles.

My first thought at the start of the film was "Well this looks quite homo-erotic?" with many long shots of the handsome young male islanders with their toned athletic bodies frolicking in the water. Afterwards, I listened to the commentary track and it mentioned that Murnau was actually gay, so he must have really been in paradise during the shoot in Bora Bora  Big Grin . The story follows a young couple, the girl is promised as a sacrifice (I think? It's not terribly clear), so they flee. Fate eventually catches up with them in the end. The story is too slight to really engage and the love between the couple doesn't have the impact it should. I didn't dislike the film but its hardly something you need to "See before you die". It was Murnau's last film because he died in a car crash just before the release of 'Tabu', so it's more of a historically significant feature I guess.

The original negative was burned up in WW2, so it was kind of frustrating to watch the outtakes reel which is included on the Eureka blu-ray, as it is significantly higher-quality than the print-based film itself. The outtakes are also uncropped, where as it looks like the film is cropped on one side to allow space for the optical audio track.

Next up is Universal's talkie 'Dracula'. The Hollywood "golden age" begins.
Recently finished The Vampires. Holy hell, that was a slog. If there was a silent film ripe for fanediting, that would be it. Fantomas, by extension, as well.

It made up for it by breaking it up into easily digestable chunks, and some pretty impressive stunts. But I wouldn't want to watch either in their entirety again.
(06-24-2017, 01:50 PM)Zamros Wrote: [ -> ]Recently finished The Vampires. Holy hell, that was a slog.

They should give out medals. A fanedit just focused on the Mazamette character goofing about could work.

86 years ago...

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Dracula (1931)
Director: Tod Browning
Country: United States
Length: 85 minutes
Type: Horror, Romance

I've watched 'Dracula' before and it felt slow and sometimes awkward, especially with it having no score and very little SoundFX. This time I tried it with Philip Glass' 1998 soundtrack and I must say it really came alive. The lengthy takes and stretches without dialogue or sound were filled with Gothic mood music. I appreciated the sombre atmosphere more and the slow pacing felt appropriately ominous and spooky. It's a bit too loud in the mix for my tastes.

'Dracula' still has problems though, it's a real mixed bag. Bela Lugosi, Dwight Frye and Edward Van Sloan (Dracula, Renfield and Van Helsing respectively) give truly iconic and unforgettable performances but pretty much everyone else is quite bad. The two romantic leads are bland and the Hospital porter Martin, has a Cockney accent so bad, Dick Van Dyke would be ashamed. The in-camera glass-shot VisFX are stunningly gorgeous but the bats-on-a-string are laughable. The big wide shots are full of romantic glamour but then it lacks basic close-ups that would enhance the story. The Universal restored blu-ray could hardly look better!

Next up is the "sister movie" 'Frankenstein'.
^ Have you watched the Spanish language version? Was filmed at the same time, with the same sets, but a lot of people think it's the better version.

I like Philip Glass, but not with that movie. Svengoolie showed it with classic universal monster music, perfecto!
(06-25-2017, 01:03 PM)Zamros Wrote: [ -> ]Have you watched the Spanish language version?

It's a bonus on the blu-ray, so I've watched some of it. IMO Whatever the technical merits of the production, the central cast is a campy shadow of Lugosi and Co.

(06-25-2017, 01:30 PM)Rogue-theX Wrote: [ -> ]Svengoolie showed it with classic universal monster music, perfecto!

Svengoolie? Sounds good.

86 years ago...

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Frankenstein (1931)
Director: James Whale
Country: United States
Length: 71 minutes
Type: Horror, Science-Fiction

It's indicative of the rapid advances in sound technology at the time, that only 9-months had passed since 'Dracula' but 'Frankenstein' is an all together more polished affair from Universal. Deep rumbles of thunder, crackles of electricity and the buzzing of bizarre scientific apparatus, all adding to the atmosphere. This film also lacks much of a score but this time you hardly notice because of the improved sound work.

Again it's a mixed bag on the acting front. Colin Clive, Boris Karloff and the returning Dwight Frye and Edward Van Sloan are outstanding. The supporting cast is less effective, some are bland and some seem to be playing it as if they are in a comedy. Don't get me wrong, they are amusing but the tonal shifts are odd when intercut with grave-robbing. The runtime is very short, which means there is never a dull moment but then no time to get into the weightier themes of the story. Even after countless parodies, the makeup job on the creature still looks horrifically real and cadaverous. The expressionist set designs are very imaginative and probably seared onto the imagination of everybody in the world.

1973's 'Frankenstein: The True Story' is the definitive telling for me. A good 3-hours is the kind of run-time you need to do this story right.

Next up is one of the all-time great romances, Chaplin's 'City Lights'.
86 years ago...

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City Lights (1931)
Director: Charlie Chaplin
Country: United States
Length: 87 minutes
Type: Silent, Romance, Comedy

On 'City Lights', Charlie Chaplin Writes, Stars, Directs, Produces, Edits and writes the Music too. He spent a year shooting, eventually editing 300k feet of film down to 8k. Given the relative technical simplicity of the film, it shows the Kubrickian level of perfection he was after. This might have been the first Silent movie I ever watched (this was my third or fourth viewing) and it was a good beginning. 'City Lights was Orson Welles favourite movie and Tarkovsky and Kubrick reportedly both had it in their Top-5.

Chaplin's "Little Tramp" character is in love with an impoverished blind flower girl but she mistakes him for a rich gentleman. Luckily he has befriended a drunken/erratic/suicidal millionaire, allowing him to keep up the pretense for a while. It's an utterly charming romance full of clever little jokes and memorable scenes. The final scene is beautiful in concept, in acting, in directing and in scoring.

As far I know, 'City Lights' is the last movie of the Silent era in the book. Chaplin and others would make rare returns to the format in years to come but this is where things go full Talkie. Watching these Silent movies, I've come to understand why some Directors were so reluctant to embrace sound. When they really work, I find myself totally immersed in a way I rarely am with a Sound film. The fact that there is no sound and dialogue requires you to engage your imagination to fill in those parts in your brain, almost becoming part of the experience in a dream like way. I'm hooked on the format now and already have a long list of other Silents I intend to watch. But from now on, I'll only be watching those films that are available in HD (or perhaps the odd Criterion/BFI DVD). If you can't see every detail of the actor's faces, you are wasting your time IMO.

Next up is an early Jimmy Cagney Gangster film.