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

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The Last Man (1924)
Director: F. W. Murnau
Country: Germany
Length: 89 minutes
Type: Silent, Drama, Tragedy

The first 74 minutes of 'The Last Man' (aka 'The Last Laugh', 'Der Letzte Mann') are a horribly tragic and miserable (in a good way) film about a kindly but slightly pompous old gentleman Hotel Doorman who suddenly finds himself out of a job when he can no longer lift the luggage. His swift plunge into despair, desolation and decrepitude is heart-breaking. The worst aspect for him is the loss of his smart uniform, the symbol of his importance and status in society. The scene of it being thoughtlessly ripped from his back is like some sort of physical violation.

The camera glides around in a pre-Wellesian way but never leaves the Doorman's side, taking us right into his inner torment. This is another leap forward in the cinematic art in the way it is shot and lit.

I did find the rejection by his own family hard to understand. However, following a quick Google, contemporary German film-critic Lotte Eisner said the film "is pre-eminently a German tragedy, and can only be understood in a country where uniform is king, not to say god. A non-German mind will have difficulty in comprehending all its tragic implications". So perhaps to a 92 year old German, the callous actions of his family make more sense, such is the shame of a man sans-uniform in the 1920s.

Then after 74 minutes and the presumed quiet end of the Doorman, we get this curious titlecard...

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...and there follows a 15 minute happy epilogue where the Doorman suddenly inherits a vast fortune and sits around eating vats of caviar, drinking Champagne, showering the hotel staff with tips and offering a homeless stranger a seat in his lavish carriage. Apparently Murnau was told the film was too depressing and he had to make the ending happier, so he came up with this inventive solution. Actually telling the audience that the last part is fanciful fiction. It works surprisingly well, since as a character study the last part is still consistent with the first. The way the Doorman acts to his fellow humans doesn't change, it's just their actions towards him that do. Well played Murnau, well played.

(Of course one could chose to not watch the last part and wallow in the full misery Murnau originally intended Wink ).

More Buster Keaton next, yeah!
92 years ago...

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Seven Chances (1925)
Director: Buster Keaton
Country: United States
Length: 57 minutes
Type: Silent, Comedy, Farce

After the non-stop invention of 'Sherlock Jr.', this feels like quite a low-key film. It is more reliant on the overall funny setup (Bachelor must marry somebody/anybody by 7pm to inherit a fortune) than on clever visual gags. It's still very funny and worthy of a watch though. The best bit for me was Buster getting into his car, then cross-fading to him still in the car at his destination. It's a joke that relies on the audience of 1925 understanding the (then new) formal rules of cinema and how bizarre it is when you break them. Another highlight is Buster out running a landslide.

The first 3 minutes use a primitive two-strip Technicolor process to little effect but it's the first use of real colour photography in the book. There are a couple of jokes when the main character almost proposes to two pretty girls before realising at the last minute, that one is Jewish and the other is Black. It doesn't feel mean spirited, more a comment on morals at the time, that would no doubt prevent marriage between a person of one race/religion and any person who was not also of that same race/religion. He also almost proposes to a plastic mannequin and a male drag-act. The inclusion of a "black face" character is less forgivable though. There isn't any really nasty racist humour but that minstrel pantomime act is never pleasant to watch.

The famous 'Phantom of the Opera' is next and the equally famous Lon Chaney.

By the way, this cleverly looped gif of Buster's stuntwork is great...

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I started Seven Chances two weeks ago and quit after 20 minutes.
Per your praise, I'll try again.
I decided to watch the first few minutes of Sherlock Jr. just to check it out ya know. How interesting could a 100 year old film be. Watched the whole thing. Absolutely, shockingly, brilliant, especially when there's NO CGI so all was done for reals. Amazing.
Thanks for a joyous 45 minutes or so TM2YC!
91 years ago...

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The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Director: Rupert Julian (Edward Sedgwick, Lon Chaney, Ernst Laemmle)
Country: United States
Length: 91 minutes
Type: Silent, Drama, Horror, Romance

I've got a 'Universal Monsters' Horror blu-ray boxset but it starts with the sound-era films and includes the later 1943 Claude Rains 'Phantom of the Opera'. But this was my first time viewing the silent-era Lon Chaney "original". That's in quotes because there are several different versions. As far as I can make out, there is the first 1925 version which is only available in poor 16mm elements, a pinsharp blu-ray transfer of a 1929 35mm "special edition" silent cut and a re-dubbed sound version. I went for the silent blu-ray cut, as it comes complete with tinting and two-strip Technicolor reel. Unlike with 'Seven Chances', the colour is used to full effect for a masked ball sequence with the Phantom prowling round in a dazzling red cape and skull mask.

The famous bits are rightly famous but the rest of the movie, when not focused on the Phantom anti-hero, do drag a little. Similarly, Lon Chaney's central performance is unforgettable but everyone else is very much forgettable. The various subplots detracting from the main focus is probably down to three other Directors stepping in for re-shoots and four different editors making competing cuts. If 'The Thief of Bagdad' was an early example of the Hollywood system at it's best, then this is it at it's worst. Fiddling round with what was probably originally a fine dark Gothic movie because a test audience didn't enjoy it and adding action and comedy elements (See 'Suicide Squad' Big Grin ).

The first 1925 version:

The second 1929 cut:

Too late, I realised there was a 1990 Rick Wakeman soundtracked version available too (Complete with Christopher Lee intro sequence)...

More Eisenstein next.
91 years ago...

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Battleship Potemkin (1925)
Director: Sergei Eisenstein
Country: Russia
Length: 74 minutes
Type: Silent, Drama, Historical, Propaganda

I've been meaning to see this for a long time, less for the film and more because I knew one of my favourite bands Pet Shop Boys, had recorded a score for it. This was a great opportunity to "experience" both. As far as I know, the film has never been released as a video with their score (only on CD and rare live performances) but thankfully some kind person on youtube has synced it all up.

The film feels a lot more polished than 'Strike' and this time seems on nodding terms with the facts of the events it portrays (although exaggerated and distorted). Again it deliberately features no central characters, to show revolution as a collective act. There are reasons why virtually nobody ever does this in movies Wink . There are many famous shots and sequences that have been copied and referenced time and again. Here is a video showing just a few of them from 'The Untouchables' to 'Star Wars'...

It's interesting to see where these iconic images came from but the bulk of the film feels less remarkable and as a whole the film isn't one I could say I loved. The PSB soundtrack on the other hand was marvelous.

Chaplin's first entry in the book next.
91 years ago...

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The Gold Rush (1925)
Director: Charlie Chaplin
Country: United States
Length: 95 minutes
Type: Silent, Comedy, Melodrama

Finally we get to a movie in the book that I've actually seen before! I bought a Chaplin DVD boxset 6-years ago, so I've seen all his feature films at least once but I want to view them again in order. Last time I watched Chaplin's 1942 "special edition" which had his own score and narration. This time I went for the original 1925, restored by Kevin Brownlow, with a Piano score by Neil Brand. The image quality isn't as sharp and I prefer Chaplin's later lush score but in every other way it's marginally better. I much prefer the finale in this cut, ending as it does with a crowd-pleasing kiss between the romantic leads, instead of them just walking out of frame. Maybe this was down to the Hays-Code, as the kiss clearly flouts the later "3 second kiss" rule, lasting about 10-12 seconds.

'The Gold Rush' starts of feeling a bit episodic and slow but the different plot threads begin to coalesce nicely after the mid point. It really begins for me once the little prospector tramp arrives in town and instantly falls in love with the beautiful dancer Georgia. Initially she barely notices him until her friends play a cruel joke on him, which backfires and she realises how much he loves her. There are some beautiful and famous comic moments like Chaplin trying to dance while his trousers are falling down and cooking his boot like a gourmet chef. It's not my favourite Chaplin feature but it is still very good.

The first "war movie" in the book next.
enjoying your trip-thru-cinema diary, timetravel2yc. Smile

^^ the odessa steps were also an inspiration for kurosawa's slave revolt scene in The Sukaiwaka Hidden Fortress.

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(04-16-2017, 03:48 PM)ssj Wrote: [ -> ]the odessa steps were also an inspiration for kurosawa's slave revolt scene in The Sukaiwaka Hidden Fortress.

I bet a short black'n'white fanedit could be done (similar to those clever 'Hell's Club' things by AMDS) cutting all Odessa influenced scenes together as if it was in one step-based location. God, I'd love that.

91 years ago...

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The Big Parade (1925)
Director: King Vidor
Country: United States
Length: 141 minutes (2 1/3 hours)
Type: Silent, Comedy, Drama, War

If the only thing you've experienced of silent films is 'The Artist' and you would love to see something quite similar to that, then in many respects, 'The Big Parade' might be the ticket for you. The restored blu-ray transfer I watched looks astonishingly good, which really counts when you can see every nuance of the actor's performance. I believe the actual negative was miraculously discovered a few years ago and it's based off that.

The plot of the first half is simple on face value; idle rich city-boy goes off to war in Europe, strikes up friendships with two lads from the lower rungs of society and then falls helplessly in love with a local French farm-girl. It's a rom-com in the best sense, with three friends up to all kinds of mischief and the central lovers totally charming. The dashing American actor John Gilbert, is paired with the beautiful French actress Renée Adorée. You can see their chemistry from just a few frames...

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However, in the second half it turns into 'Saving Private Ryan'. The Great War falls heavily on our four characters and there are no more laughs, only tears. It reminded me of Roberto Benigni's 'Life Is Beautiful', in the way it shows us the joys of life, before switching to the horrors of death in the same film. After the cost of war has been paid, the characters are not the same people as they started out.

Remember, this was released just 7-years after WWI had claimed 38 million casualties worldwide. So to portray the war this unflinchingly, this soon, must have been a gamble. A gamble that paid off, as it made (according to my quick calculation) a 5659% profit! Sadly the central cast wouldn't fare as well in the next 8, or 9 years. Adorée died a few years later from tuberculosis, Gilbert died as a result of drink and Swedish star Karl Dane shot himself when talkies rendered his voice undesirable and work dried up. Life could hardly imitate art more closely. I discover a new film full of life and then read the stars all died miserable early deaths... sigh.

The battle sequences use amazing FX work to show the WW1 nighttime warfare from almost impossibly wide angles. I dare say, the shots would almost hold up next to the FX of today, even under the scrutiny of this sharp transfer. King Vidor makes use of subtle foreshadowing. Carl Davis' score is note perfect. In short, it's a masterpiece.

The legendary 'Metropolis' is next.
91 years ago...

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Metropolis (1927)
Director: Fritz Lang
Country: Germany
Length: 148 minutes (2 1/2 hours)
Type: Silent, Sci-Fi, Political, Drama,

'Metropolis' has a reputation for two things, astounding visuals and a confusing plot. It thoroughly deserves the first accolade but doesn't really deserve the second in my opinion. The plot and themes are complex and open to interpretation but can be easily understood on a surface level (the 2010 restoration at least). I'd seen the Moroder cut years ago and found that understandable too.

The film could be seen as Religious (Christian and Pagan symbolism abound), it could be seen as anti-Science, whilst at the same time firing the Sci-Fi imagination and in-love with technology. It could be seen as containing proto-Fascist tones (Goebbels and Hitler loved it) but it was also heavily censored because it was felt to be very left-wing. All these competing themes make it endlessly fascinating to watch. 'Metropolis' was a box-office bomb on the original release (bringing the UFA studio to the brink of financial ruin) but it's cultural impact is now felt everywhere.

An unfortunate flaw is lead actor Gustav Fröhlich being pretty bad and like a parody of silent-era (over)acting. Thankfully, everyone else in the cast is excellent. Alfred Abel is grave and reserved and Rudolf Klein-Rogge is predictably and wonderfully unhinged as "mad scientist" Rotwang. The best is lead actress Brigitte Helm (in her very first acting job), playing the almost unearthly beautiful and saintly Maria, as well as Maria's maniacal Robot clone (and a few other small roles). Apparently she was later almost cast as the "Bride of Frankenstein" and it's easy to see why.

I watched it with the magnificent original score but this Kraftwerk fan re-scoring is a damn good way to watch it too...

A final word on the 2010 restoration. A terrible quality 16mm copy of the uncut film was discovered in Argentina and that combined with all previously available pristine 35mm material was put together to create the most complete version available. Unfortunately they made three errors of judgement when tiny parts were still missing; They chose to include black frames (like a bad glitch-filled fanedit) instead of making small trims; for the 16mm material, it's been presented at a different aspect-ratio to the rest of the movie, instead of using minor amounts of cropping; they chose not to include two scenes at all because the quality was so bad, replacing them with "scene missing" titlecards, instead of just including the material how ever bad it looked. I understand why they did it this way but it all makes "immersion" in the movie, next to impossible, so I may do a fanedit to improve these things.

Another Murnau movie up next.