Archive for the 1920s Category

La belle Nivernaise (Epstein, 1924)

Posted in 1920s, 8/10 on June 27, 2013 by chrisfilm

La belle Nivernaise (Jean Epstein, 1924)

It always saddens me when I see a film like this and my initial thought is, “I wish I could see that restored.” It’s hard to truly judge a movie when so much of what remains is in very bad shape. Regardless of the quality, though, it’s easy to tell this is a film whose foundation is built by its river setting. Rippling water, gusts of wind, sun soaking into characters’ skin all edited in typical ahead-of-its-time fashion that Epstein is known for. The film’s central love story is a bit dated but it’s nicely executed and its development along with the jealous captain’s first mate storyline would have been a fine way to spend the entire film. But Epstein adds a second layer of conflict halfway through that is unnecessary and a bad jolt in tone thanks to the shift in setting it causes. Overall this is a mixed bag though Epstein’s always consistent strengths make this worthwhile.  7.75/10

la belle nivernaise

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Best of… Series – 1927 – Hindle Wakes

Posted in 10/10, 1920s, Best of... Series on May 23, 2012 by chrisfilm

Hindle Wakes (Maurice Elvey, 1927)

Wow, just wow. The beauty, realism, and troubles of a new flirtatious romance have rarely graced the screen as poignantly as they do here. We begin with the uncertain meeting of previous acquaintances as they drift through the crowded theme park where each was seeking a moment of freedom. What follows is cute head nuzzles, hand-holding, and eventually shared kisses back-dropped by a remarkable light show, all edited in a poetic and accurate fashion with one of the best musical scores I’ve ever heard. (Who cares if it was added decades later!) Then, jumping to the final quarter of the film, we witness ahead-of-its-time treatment of both female strength under heavy burden and the handling of a mistake, all resulting in a heartbreaking conclusion. A dull third quarter is the only thing preventing this from perfection.

And as shown early on with a shot of female factory workers’ feet as they run into the locker room, quickly change shoes, and run out all in beautiful synchronized fashion, Elvey isn’t afraid to put the camera wherever he wants it. We find it lingering on a hand touching the small of a back, on numerous park rides, and hovering high above a dance floor for several minutes. We also witness a gorgeous mixture of light and shadows on the home streets of our protagonist. Enjoy.  9.75/10

The Parson’s Widow (Dreyer, 1920)

Posted in 1920s, 7/10 on May 9, 2012 by chrisfilm

The Parson’s Widow (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1920)

Well, okay, sort of a fun little dark comedy set in the olden days. A young man comes to a village in hopes of being hired as a parson. Upon receiving an offer for the job, he is told he must marry the previous parson’s widow – an old woman. From here, he and his actual fiance plan to wait for the woman to die. There are a few chuckles here and there, including a scene where the parson dresses as the devil in hopes of scaring the old woman to death (only for her to see his slippers underneath the costume). I also found the pastoral village setting to be soothing in tone and helped keep the events at a playful level. An unexpected shift in the plot towards the end causes a much too sentimental conclusion, but this wasn’t some kind of masterpiece up to that point either, so it’s easy to forgive.  7/10

3 Bad Men (Ford, 1926)

Posted in 10/10, 1920s on May 3, 2012 by chrisfilm

3 Bad Men (John Ford, 1926)

Set on the dusty plains of the Dakotas, a stranger notices a young country 20-something and her aging father in need of some wagon repair. His good will is accompanied by confident swagger and bold flirtations, and the two part with no intentions of quickly forgetting the other. Down the road, three thieving men on the prowl make a self-centered rescue of the girl and her father from a band of criminals so as to secure the desired loot for themselves. (After discovering she was not a he, a change of heart leads to their accompaniment.)

From here, the unveiling of character depth, relationship ambiguity, gorgeously photographed tragedy, and self sacrifice come to the forefront in this complex, emotional, and often humorous look at Ford’s makeshift family. An involving film in every aspect of the word, Ford’s ability to tell this story while avoiding almost every time period and genre typecast is truly remarkable.  9.5/10

The Iron Horse (Ford, 1924)

Posted in 1920s, 7/10 on April 30, 2012 by chrisfilm

The Iron Horse (John Ford, 1924)

At 2 ½ hours, this runs a bit long. A movie of this length isn’t usually an issue for me, but when the length is a result of entirely too much ‘museum material’, I couldn’t help but notice it. (Is this a real term? If not, I’m using this term to describe all the historical information that felt like one of those videos no one can ever sit through at a museum.) When the film stays focused on the actual story being told it’s a nice little tale of hard work and determination with a romantic side plot.

Very patriotic in its approach to the development of the Union and Central Pacific railroads, our protagonist wants nothing more than to see his late father’s dream of a railway to the west come true. He pursues this goal with everything he has even at the expense of his love life. From one angle we see him blow it, and put his extra energy into strengthening his craft. From the other angle we see her desire to continue being pursued and his inability to do so. It’s a poignant relationship especially in the way it relates to the large task at hand. Overall, has this been edited more vigorously, it could have been fantastic, but the good is mixed with the unnecessary too often.  7.5/10

Arizona Days (McGowan, 1928)

Posted in 1920s, 8/10 on April 21, 2012 by chrisfilm

Arizona Days (J.P. McGowan, 1928)

A simple yet enjoyable little silent western. The land is drenched in an orange-tinted sepiatone as a man fights cunningly to keep a local cheat from conning his way to free cattle. We’re treated to an intriguing story and some great character interaction (these folks don’t fight from afar; they act as business partners, adversaries, and sometimes even chums depending on the mood). There’s also a cute little love story between the man’s daughter and a new-to-town cowhand. The film is short and doesn’t offer as much from a technical standpoint as most westerns, but it’s much better than the B-western it was advertised as.  7.75/10

The Three-Sided Mirror (Epstein, 1927)

Posted in 1920s, 9/10 on April 19, 2012 by chrisfilm

The Three-Sided Mirror (Jean Epstein, 1927)

Three women wanting love so desperately, and all for different reasons, fall victim to the same man and his deception. His success, his looks, and his phony romanticism become a sticky web of captivating allure and undeserved regret (illustrated perfectly by Epstein’s frantic yet poetic editing style). Each woman is of a sympathetic nature and more is said about his haunting effect on their lives during scenes where they are alone than when actually together. The first woman weeps as she tells the story of his spotty affection and unfaithfulness; the second turns from a strong independent woman prior to his arrival to a pathetic needy mess; the third is giddily anticipating his arrival in a heartbreakingly naive way. He makes his rounds, one by one, playing a sick game of indifference towards their feelings, fooling everyone along the way. It’s a haunting portrayal of hallucinated invincibility, and one I will not soon forget.  9/10