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Full Version: TM2YC's 1001 Movies (Chronological up to page 48/post 480)
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Had a double bill of Broken Blossoms and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari last night.

Whilst the abundant Yellowface in Broken Blossoms wasn't nearly as gross and offensive as Griffith's previous ventures, the story provides little to distract from this.

Caligari, however, had me hooked from the off. Every single frame was stunning, as German Expressionism tends to be. It had stellar performances from its leads, an incredible early movie monster in Cesare, whose legacy is seen today in Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger. Not to mention the ending, which I had to watch twice to fully appreciate.

I can't wait to get to The Phantom Carriage, but I hope Oprhans of the Storm and Within Our Gates are worth the watch as well.
(11-16-2017, 11:19 AM)Zamros Wrote: [ -> ]Whilst the abundant Yellowface in Broken Blossoms wasn't nearly as gross and offensive as Griffith's previous ventures, the story provides little to distract from this.

If the portrayal is sympathetic and respectful (and if the story also highlights prejudice as a bad thing. Which 'Broken Blossoms' does), I think these old films almost get away with it.  Coincidentally, I'm about to re-watch another "Yellowface" film from the book. If it's disrespectful and from a later period like Mickey Rooney, or Peter Ustinov then it's hard to excuse.  Then again I'm not Chinese, so I'm not really qualified to pass judgement.
84 years ago...

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Duck Soup (1933)
Director: Leo McCarey
Country: United States
Length: 68 minutes
Type: Musical, Comedy, Satire

I've seen the Marx Brother's 'Duck Soup' more times than I could count, starting from when I was a kid. I thought I knew every line and every shot but so dense is the humour in every frame, that I was still noticing new things to laugh at on this re-watch. 'Duck Soup' is unique in their Filmography because the satire is overtly political and the film makes no concessions to simple entertainment. There is no star-crossed couple at the center of the plot, there are no "pop" love songs and there isn't even a Harp/Piano break for Chico and Harpo. It's just total surreal comedic anarchy, aimed roughly at Politics but still careening off into a subplot about a fight with a Lemonade seller. There are a few deliberately overblown mock-Musical numbers, the best being 'Land of the Free/Hail Freedonia'. As sharp a Satire of hypocritical, vain politicians today, as it was then.

Groucho Wrote:If any form of pleasure is exhibited,
Report to me and it will be prohibited.
I'll put my foot down, so shall it be,
This is the land of the free!

A Greta Garbo film next.
83 years ago...

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Queen Christina (1933)
Director: Rouben Mamoulian
Country: United States
Length: 97 minutes
Type: Romance, Drama

I've somehow managed to never see a Greta Garbo film until 'Queen Christina' but now I'm an instant fan. She plays the young Swedish Queen, raised to rule "like a man" in a time of perpetual conflict. Like a bachelor of the time, she hunts, she rides and her long list of lovers is famous.  Christina is also wise, loved by the people and rails against the stuffy male bureaucrats in her court (who want her to marry) and warmongers that seek to influence her.

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A serendipitous meeting with an exotic Foreign Ambassador changes everything. The dialogue between them is full of romance, poetry and eroticism. This and the exquisitely lit Gothic shots of Christina prowling her castle alone at night, make this what might be termed an early "Art House" film.  Such a shame that this was co-star John Gilbert's penultimate film (He died a couple of years after) because he's superbly charming. Even better in sound, than he was in silence. 'Queen Christina' is a masterpiece and really needs an HD release.

Next is a Luis Buñuel short Documentary.
83 years ago...

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Las Hurdes: Land Without Bread (1933)
Director: Luis Buñuel
Country: Spain
Length: 27 minutes
Type: Documentary, Propaganda

'Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan' is a short location "Documentary" about the extreme poverty in the remote Las Hurdes region of Spain, with the intent of influencing policy. The visual weirdness of Luis Buñuel is absent, instead he brings in the Surrealism by contrasting stark realistic images with a passionless, uninterested sounding vocal commentary (Like the Anti-Attenborough). Seeing this with a modern eye, that is familiar with the methods of propaganda and film-making in general, it's immediately obvious that scenes are staged and others provide no real evidence for the events that the commentary describes. I'm not sure if the intent was to deceive, or just a big Surrealist joke. Reading up on this afterwards, apparently Buñuel killed and tortured a couple of animals to get the shots he wanted... what a d*ck. This was mercifully short, if nothing else.

King Kong is next!
84 years ago...

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King Kong (1933)
Director: Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack
Country: United States
Length: 104 minutes
Type: Drama, Adventure, Monster

After the modern-feeling dialogue and acting of films I recently watched like 'Gold Diggers of 1933', 'King Kong' seems even more dated than it did the last time I watched it. The cast are uniformly wooden and the dialogue is cheesy but as an early Blockbuster "Creature Feature", the human cast isn't what really counts, it's the fun Special-Effects. I swear some of the matte-paintings here would still hold up today and 'King Kong' himself is beautifully animated. The sense of adventure and mystery as the film builds with impeccable pacing towards it's New York finale is near perfect. Overall, I much prefer the Peter Jackson remake, as the acting there is nop-notch and the characters (including Kong) have much more depth.

Frank Capra's first appearance in the book is next.
84 years ago...

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...and the superior but NSFW poster...

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The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933)
Director: Frank Capra
Country: United States
Length: 88 minutes
Type: Drama, Romance, Political

I've watched the 'The Bitter Tea of General Yen' before, when I was having a post-'Double Indemnity' Barbara Stanwyck phase. The story explores the deep attraction between a white American Christian Missionary (Stanwyck) and a despotic Chinese Warlord who keeps her prisoner (I'm sure such an interracial romance was controversial at the time).  It's the first of four films in the book by the famous Frank Capra and is very different to his more familiar 'It's a Wonderful Life'-type fare. The scenes of the Chinese civil war are quite violent and the film doesn't shy away from showing us the slaughter. This is contrasted with the lavish interior set dressing of Yen's palace, which is something to see, utilising genuine Chinese art and antiques.

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Yen is a really complex and fascinating character. Having prisoners lined up and shot in one scene, yet recieting poetry in another. He is played by Nils Asther in a mostly convincing makeup job, with a sensitivty to accent and manerism. It would've been preferable to have an actual Chinese actor play the part but as they didn't, I can't imagine a better job being done than this.

A Laurel & Hardy comedy next.
83 years ago...

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Sons of the Desert (1933)
Director: William A. Seiter
Country: United States
Length: 62 minutes
Type: Comedy

I've seen Documentaries and one or two shorts but this was my first full Laurel & Hardy feature. I rate their brand of predictable slapstick-humour lower than the genre's other stars (This could be re-titled "Pratfall the Movie") but I had plenty of chuckles with this. The second half is where the best laughs can be found as Stan and Oliver run round panicked, seemingly in mortal terror of what their wives and what they are going to do to them if they discover they've been lying. I particularly enjoyed Stan's "Malapropisms" like "Exhausted", instead of "Exhalted" and "Typhoid", instead of "Typhoon".

A W.C. Fields comedy next.
83 years ago...

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It's a Gift (1934)
Director: Norman Z. McLeod
Country: United States
Length: 68 minutes
Type: Comedy

'It's a Gift' could almost be a straight drama about a guy's struggles through life but one that just happens to have loads of slapstick accidents. That realistic veneer takes this above 'Sons of the Desert' (which has a similar plot) for my tastes. You could never be mistaken for thinking that Laurel & Hardy's characters where real people but W.C. Fields' hapless store-owner feels totally believable. There is a hilarious sequence involving a blind old man causing chaos. The film sags in the middle when the plot is slow to get going but is otherwise a good laugh.

A Nazi rally next (something to look forward to Dodgy ).
82 years ago...

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Triumph of the Will (1935)
Director: Leni Riefenstahl
Country: Germany
Length: 114 minutes
Type: Documentary, Propaganda

The meaning of the title 'Triumph of the Will' hadn't really occurred to me for some reason before watching this, less about a symbolic "victory" and more a literal Ancient-Roman style military Triumph. The vast scale of this Triumph would have been astounding and impressive at the time but is chilling now. Leni Riefenstahl does everything she can to make Hitler seem otherworldly, heroic and impressive. She opens the film with some stunning aerial photography flying through the clouds as Hitler arrives on his plane. It's clear intent is to make him seem like a God descending from the heavens (I half expected to hear 'Ride of the Valkyries'). Other attempts to puff him up are less successful, like editing footage of Hitler greeting the crowds, together with close-ups of young women licking their lips and gazing adoringly. It was laughable and only served to underline how awkward, unpleasant and small he actually looks.

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I was expecting to be offended by the content of this film but there is nothing here to betray what the Nazis where really about. It's all vaguely positive stuff about strength, unity, faith etc with each speaker shouting "Deutschland!" 400 times. I'm not sure if this was a case of the Nazis being careful to present a clean image to Riefenstahl, or if Riefenstahl was carefully editing out the odious parts to present a clean image to us the viewer. I watched parts of the last GOP Convention and that had way more offensive hate-filled speech than 'Triumph of the Will'... but a comparable amount of flags and eagles. The inventive camera-work and the fascinating political-context made this a much less tedious watch than I feared. The endless marching footage towards the end got extremely tedious though.

Jean Vigo's only feature next.