Posts Tagged ‘silent film’

Strike (Russian: “Стачка”) is a 1925 silent film made in the Soviet Union by Sergei Eisenstein. It was Eisenstein’s first full-length feature film, and it is the story of a strike by factory workers in the Tsarist Russia of 1912 and its brutal suppression. It was shot almost entirely on location so that it seems like a reconstruction of genuine events. It was acted by the Proletcult Theatre, and composed of six parts. It was in turn, intended to be one part of a seven-part series, entitled Towards Dictatorship (of the proletariat), and the project was left unfinished. Most probably The Battleship of Potemkin,- his mature work and more enduring as a film classic, was released later that year and it made such prepraratory work unnecessary. Like Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, Strike reveals the creative energy of an artist given its wings without pulling back.- and it is the liberty of a young film-maker to test the boundaries of film-making, and in Eisenstein it is shown in the way he has tested every rule in the book and rewrote it by adding some of his own. This is evident in Battleship Potemkin and October.
Most of the characteristics of Eisenstein’s film style can be seen in part derived from his early influences. Before he came into filmmaking he was attached to a military construction unit, and also note-worthy is that his father was an architect. He is probably the most architectural of directors, evidenced by his film sets in which architectural elements add to the dramatic tension. In part his style is derived from masters like Griffith and Chaplin. But with Strike he enlarged the vocabulary of cinema especially in the area of montage. His influential essay, Montage of Attractions was written between Strike’s production and premiere. (See also quote from Metalluk’s review -epinions.com)

The film opens with a quote from Vladimir Lenin.

На заводе всё спокойно / At the factory all is quiet

Using typography, the word “но” (but) is added to the title of the chapter, which then animates and disolves into an image of machinery in motion. The facory bosses have set their sights on the workers and they are seen reviewing a list of agents with vivid code names such as as The Monkey, The Fox, The Owl, Bulldog, and Fly-by-Night. The job of the spies is to infiltrate the union and ferret out the identities of the ringleaders.
Vignettes are shown of them. Conditions are tense with agitators and Bolsheviks planing a strike.

Повод к стачке / Reason to strike

A micrometer is stolen, with a value of 25 rubles or 3 weeks pay. A worker, Yakov, is accused of the theft and subsequently hangs himself. Fighting ensues and work stops. The workers leave the milling room running and resistance is met at the foundry. The strikers throw rocks and loose metal through the foundry windows. Then locked within the gates of the complex, the crowd confronts the office. They force open the gates and sieze a manager.
Завод замер / The factory dies down

The chapter begins with footage of ducklings, kittens, piglets, and geese. A child then wakes his father who is out of work and they have funtime. The factory is shown vacant and still with birds moving in. The children act out what their fathers had done, wheelbarrowing a goat in a mob. The shareholders discuss  with the director and read the demands. They are dismissive on the workers demands. Meanwhile the police raid the workers, and they sit down to protest. At their meeting the shareholders use the demand letter as a rag to clean up a spill, and a lemon squeezer. It expresses howfar the shareholders are willing go.

Стачка затягивается / The strike draws out

Scenes are shown of a lines forming at a store, which is closed, and a baby needing food. A fight occurs at a home between a man and a woman, subsequently she leaves. Another man rummages through his home for goods to sell at a flea market, upsetting his family. A posted letter publicly shows the administrators rejection of the demands.
Провокация на разгром / Provocation and debacle

The scene opens with dead cats dangling from a structure. A new character is introduced, “King” whose throne is made of a derelict automobile amidst rubbish and he is instructed by Tsarist police  to set fire, raze, and loot a liquor store. A crowd gathers at the fire and the alarm is sounded. The crowd leaves to avoid being provoked but are set upon by the firemen with their hoses regardless.
Ликвидация / Liquidation

The governor sends in the military. A child walks under the soldiers’ horses and his mother goes under to get him and is struck. Rioting commences, and the crowd is chased off through a series of gates and barriers heading to the forge, then their apartments. The crowd is chased and whipped on the balconies. A policeman raises and drops a child from the balcony, killing it. The workers are driven into a field by the army and shot en masse. This bloody scene is shown with alternating footage of the slaughtering of a cow. (ack:wikipedia)

Directed by     Sergei M. Eisenstein
Produced by     Boris Mikhin
Written by     Grigori Aleksandrov
Ilya Kravchunovsky
Sergei M. Eisenstein
Valeryan Pletnyov
Cinematography     Eduard Tisse
Release date: April 28, 1925
Running time     82 min.
Language     Silent film

‘Strike is a veritable catalog of technical innovations and wizardry. There are double exposures, an upside down puddle reflection, shots through windows, reflections in mirrors, fades and melds, side by side panels that then merge, shots of distorted reflections in a glass ball, low angle shots, film reversals, silhouette shots, and much, much more. There are some surreal elements introduced, such as a pair of midgets dancing on a table behind two policemen who are in the process of turning one of the strikers into a snitch. There are a host of out-of-context images, such as nervous eyes turned to the side, juxtaposed to add a sense of paranoia to the main sequences. There are back and forth cuts between a manager squeezing juice from an orange while the Cossacks, who have surrounded a group of workers in a wooded area, tighten the ring around them.

Eisenstein was most fortunate to acquire the services of Edward Tissé as his cameraman for Strike. Eisenstein, though teeming with brilliant ideas, was raw and inexperienced as a filmmaker in 1925, while Tissé was both experienced and talented as a cinematographer. Tissé was able to capture effectively Eisenstein’s conceptions on film. The professional relationship between the two men lasted through most of Eisenstein’s career.

While making Strike, Eisenstein effectively developed his notion of “intellectual montage.” He typically spent many more hours in the editing of a film than in the shooting. Eisenstein’s idea was to create a rapid succession of quick shots (which might be relatively meaningless taken alone) that would acquire meaning through the intellectual process of association. The secondary benefit is that rapid cuts can also add tempo and excitement to a film. To the Soviet authorities, Eisenstein’s editing techniques became known as “formalism,” which they railed against incessantly.

Many of the film’s frames are notable for the intricate detail of the mise-en-scene. Especially impressive are the shots in the factory interior (a labyrinth of wheels, ropes, aisles, and machinery) and the worker’s multistory tenement maze’.

“Eisenstein was supremely the master of film rhetoric.” – Orson Welles
‘The films do lack a certain humanity. Battleship Potemkin and October were masterpieces of technique, to which film-makers still bow today. Alexander Nevsky and the two parts of Ivan the Terrible were operatic and often grotesque, but classics too. Only Strike, his first feature, showed his basic humanity, and it is arguably his best because of it’.( Derek Malcolm-The Guardian, Oct 12, 2000)

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Metropolis is a science fiction film based on a screenplay written in 1924 by Fritz Lang and his then wife, Thea von Harbou. She made it into a novel in 1926. This work by Fritz Lang was produced in Germany in the Babelsberg Studios at a time before the economic and political chaos could engulf the Weimar Republic. It was the most expensive silent film of the time, costing approximately 7 million Reichsmark (equivalent to around $28 million USD in 2007).

The film is set in a future and a corporate city-state, the metropolis is the stage for examing an idea that was hot in the 20’s: the social crisis between workers and owners in capitalism. The film had a checkered history, the original and longest version was briefly screened in Germany in 1927 of which a quarter of the footage was believed to be permanently lost. But later this portion resurfaced in a film museum in Argentina! There is an American version, which is a fraction of the original and it is what often referred to and discussed.


The film is set in the year 2026, and the city state, the metropolis of the title is run by Johann ‘Joh’ Fredersen (Alfred Abel).
Society has been divided into two rigid groups: one of planners or thinkers, who live high above the earth in luxury, and another of workers who live underground toiling to sustain the lives of the privileged.
The beautiful but a firebrand for the workers, Maria (Brigitte Helm) advises the desperate workers not to start a revolution, and instead wait for the arrival of “The Mediator”, who, she says, will unite the two halves of society. Meanwhile the son of Fredersen, Freder (Gustav Fröhlich), becomes infatuated with Maria, and follows her down into the working underworld and realizes firsthand the situation. ( After an explosion at the “M-Machine”, the employers are more concerned with keeping the machine than attending to the safety of the wounded. They bring in replacements.) Disgusted Freder joins her cause.

While the love is nascent in such lower depths above it is business as usual. Johann has  a rival in Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge). Rotwang has built a robotic gynoid. Rotwang wants to give the robot the appearance of Hel but Johann requests him to give the robot the appearance of Maria instead. His aim is to hold his control over the workers using Maria as a robot while Rotwang who lost his sweetheart to Johann knowsshe died giving birth to Freder. He has his own plans to separate Maria from Johann. So he consents to the request of Johann.
After unleashing the real and the robot things really hot up in Metropolis.
The robot is passed for an exotic dancer and she proves to be a  a hit with the well heeled Yoshiwara crowd. Meanwhile the real Maria is held a prisoner at the castle of Rotwang. The robot descents to the underworld and create confusion: workers mistake Maria as the cause for the havoc set off by robot Maria in the wake of destruction of “Heart Machine”, the power station of the city. Nor they can understand it was the real Maria and Federer who saved them in a heroic rescue.

When the workers realize the damage the uppercrust have done and that their children are lost, they under the leadership of Grot, the foreman go up to seek revenge. They chase the human Maria, whom they hold responsible for their loss. As they break into the city’s entertainment district, they run into and capture the robot Maria, while the human Maria manages to escape. The workers burn the captured Maria at the stake; Freder, believing this to be the human Maria, despairs but then he and the workers realize that the burned Maria is in fact a robot.

Meanwhile, the human Maria is chased by Rotwang along the battlements of the city’s cathedral. Freder chases after Rotwang, resulting in a climactic scene in which Joh Fredersen watches in terror as his son struggles with Rotwang on the cathedral’s roof. Rotwang falls to his death, and Maria and Freder return to the street, where Freder unites Fredersen (the “head”) and Grot (the “hands”), fulfilling his role as the “Mediator” (the “heart”).


* Alfred Abel as Joh Fredersen
* Gustav Fröhlich as Freder, Joh Fredersen’s son
* Rudolf Klein-Rogge as Rotwang
* Fritz Rasp as the Thin Man
* Theodor Loos as Josaphat
* Erwin Biswanger as Worker 11811 / Georgi
* Heinrich George as Grot, Foreman of the Heart Machine
* Brigitte Helm as Maria/robot
Architecture and visual effects was a novelty then and the set design still impress modern audiences with their visual impact—the film contains cinematic and thematic links to German Expressionism, is based on contemporary Modernism and Art Deco.  It stands as an emblem associated with the ruling class in the film.

Rotwang’s Art Deco laboratory with its lights and industrial machinery similary add to the cult status of the film. In science fiction, this style is sometimes called Raygun Gothic.

The effects expert, Eugen Schüfftan, created innovative visual displays widely acclaimed in following years. Among the effects used are miniatures of the city, a camera on a swing, and most notably, the so-called Schüfftan process, later used by Alfred Hitchcock in his film Blackmail (1929).

The Maschinenmensch, the robot character played by Brigitte Helm, was created by Walter Schultze-Mittendorf. A chance discovery of a sample of “plastic wood” (a pliable substance designed as wood-filler) allowed him to sculpt the costume like a suit of armour over a plaster cast of the actress. Spraypainted a mix of silver and bronze, it helped create some of the most memorable moments on film.
Dualism is a running theme. Maria as the worker’s guiding spirit while she is replicated as a robot to undo her effect on workers who themselves show dichotomy of workers conscious of the disparity between the classes and who toil as automata (the viwer cannot see their faces, and they work and move as rhythmically as the machines they operate.) Rotwang, the ‘mad scientist’ is another whose mad genius and hatred is in context of Johann whose selfishness is however tempered by his fatherly concern.
The film has drawn heavily from the story of the Tower of Babel (from the book of Genesis). One may envision a grandiose monument to the greatness of humanity but would need labor of millions whose requirements are different from those who think up the skyscrapers high enough to reach the stars. The camera focuses on armies of workers led to the construction site of the monument. They work hard but cannot understand the dreams of the Tower’s designers, and the designers don’t concern themselves with the mind of their workers. As the film explains, “The dreams of a few had turned to the curses of many”.
Irony of the class war jells with the tragedy of the Biblical  Tower: the planners and the workers spoke the same language but didn’t understand each other. As the scene ends and the camera show us that only ruins remain of the Tower of Babel. This retelling is notable in keeping the theme of the lack of communication from the original story but placing it in the context of relations between social classes.

The entire film is dominated by technology: much of the technology portrayed in the film is unexplained and appears bizarre, for example the enormous “M-Machine” and the “Heart Machine.” Lang obviously could only work with technology of the 20’s and much of it to our sophisticated level seem mere curiosities of an outmoded era.’ The ultimate expression of technology in the entire film is the female robot built by Rotwang, referred to as the Maschinenmensch (“Machine Human” or “Machine Man”). In the original German version Rotwang’s creation is a reconstruction of his dead lover, a woman called Hel…’(wikipedia)
Lang, in his later years did claim his visit to New York in 1924 inspired Metropolis.

On January 10, 1927, a 210 minute version of the film premiered in Berlin with moderate success…After sound films came in in late 1927, theatre managers saw to it that the film was shown using a sound film projector at the standard sound film speed of up to 26 frames per second (as at its Berlin premiere). This affected the rhythm and pace of the original film, which had been made to be shown at the standard silent film speed of 16 frames per second…
American and foreign theatre managers were generally unwilling to allow more than ninety minutes to a feature in their program Few people outside of Berlin saw Metropolis as Fritz Lang originally intended. In the United States, the movie was shown in a version edited by the American playwright Channing Pollock, who almost completely obscured the original plot.’-wikipedia

Despite the film’s later reputation, some contemporary critics panned it. The New York Times critic Mourdant Hall called it a “technical marvel with feet of clay”. H. G. Wells thought it was foolish to think that automation created drudgery rather than relieving it, and found parts of the story derivative of Shelley’s Frankenstein, Karel Čapek’s robot stories, and his own The Sleeper Awakes.

Joseph Goebbels was impressed however and clearly took the film’s message to heart. In a speech of 1928 he noted: “The political bourgeoisie is about to leave the stage of history. In its place advance the oppressed producers of the head and hand, the forces of Labour, to begin their historical mission”.

Fritz Lang himself expressed dissatisfaction with the film. Lang’s distaste for his own film perhaps stemmed from personal reasons. While his wife embraced the cause of Nazism passionately (Von Harbou became a passionate member of the Nazi Party in 1933) he fled from Germany and he and his wife were divorced in 1934.

Restorations and re-releases

Enno Patalas made an exhaustive attempt to restore the movie in 1986. This restoration was the most accurate for its time, thanks to the script and the musical score that had been discovered. The basis of Patalas’ work was a copy in the Museum of Modern Art’s collection.
The F.W. Murnau Foundation (which now owns the film’s copyright) and Kino International (now the film’s domestic distributor) released a 118-minute, digitally restored version in 2002, undertaken by Martin Koerber. It included the original music score and title cards describing the action in the missing sequences.

The music was composed by Gottfried Huppertz who had composed the original scores for Lang’s Die Nibelungen films in 1924. As for this film, Huppertz composed a leitmotific orchestral score which included many elements from the music of Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss plus some additional score for the city of the workers and the use of the popular Dies Irae for some apocalyptic imagery. His music played a quite prominent role while shooting the picture, since during principal photography, many scenes were accompanied by him playing the piano to get a certain effect from the actors.

Cultural influences
Shots from the film are extensively featured in the video for Queen (band)’s 1984 song Radio Ga Ga.

The visual design for Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner was influenced by Metropolis. These include a built up urban environment, in which the wealthy literally live above the workers, dominated by a huge building. Compare the New Tower of Babel in Metropolis with the Tyrell Building in Blade Runner.

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Sunrise is the first feature film directed by F.W Murnau for Fox Film Corporation. It was released with synchronized sound-on-film using the Fox Movietone system. It was a big budget production. But the ‘first talkie’ The Jazz Singer (1927) from Warner Brothers which, came after a few days cut into its profits. The film fared badly at the box-office.
Also known as A Song of Two Humans is a fable portraying rural life versus urban life. The story could have been set anytime and anywhere. A rural couple’s enduring love overcomes the hostile, destructive forces of the Jazz Age city. Within this we have love seduction, attempted murder, forgiveness and reconciliation the whole gamut of human emotions to qualify this as a melodrama but in its treatment and development the story acquires a lyrical quality: it is poetic work of art with roots in the German Expressionist movement (from 1914 to 1924).
Austrian Carl Mayer wrote the screenplay, adapting the story/novella A Trip to Tilsit (“Die Reise Nach Tilsit“) by novelist/playwright Hermann Sudermann.
A farmer falls prey to a seductress from the city. She suggests him to do away with his wife.
Woman: Tell me. You are all mine? (He nods and kisses her again. She strokes his hair.) Sell your farm…come with me to the City.
Man: …and my wife?
Woman: (laughing and holding close to his neck) Couldn’t she get drowned?
[The word drowned fades into view.]

He plots to murder her during a boat trip to City of Bright Lights. During this trip, the conscience of the farmer is pricked and he relents( reminiscent of a similar situation in the George Steven’s film, A Place In The Sun). In the city the couple fall in love again. On their return trip, a tempestuous storm appears to drown the wife, but she is eventually found and the family is reunited and reconciled.
Their tearful reconciliation is completed by a view of a church across the street where a wedding is taking place. It seems to bring to the farmer his own wedding and what it means to love. Overcome by emotion in a close-up, he sobs in his wife’s lap and recites along with bridegroom the vows. He now understands its significance of love even as the minister asks the bridegroom: “Wilt thou LOVE her?”
The minister continues:
God is giving you, in the holy bonds of matrimony, a trust. She is young…and inexperienced. Guide her and love her…keep and protect her from all harm.

Production Values:

Charles Rosher and Karl Struss won the first Academy Award for Cinematography (the first with panchromatic stock), for their skillful use of superimposition, effective employment of imagery and symbolism, and lyrical quality. Breakthrough camera tracking movements gave the film its fluidity and it wonderful atmospherics owe to the manner the camera could move through  space (the marsh, the trolley ride to town, boats, dance halls, trolley cars, and city traffic), creating an unusual illusion of depth and vastness. The moving camera was to influence future films, including John Ford’s The Informer (1935) and Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941). All the sets (both exterior and interior) were constructed to recede slightly in the distance, to produce further illusions of depth. Other techniques included placing larger physical objects in the foreground of shots, and having midgets as figures in the city backgrounds.
The contrast between rural ‘country’ life and urban ‘city’ life are emphasized through sun-lit and studio-lit exterior and interior shots and this sets the mood and interest. The moonlight, the swampy marshes, and the surface of the lake all capture the astonishing play of the light.
Memorable Quotes:
The Man: [pleading to his wife] Don’t be afraid of me!
[opening title cards]
Title Card: This song of the Man and his Wife is of no place and every place; you might hear it anywhere, at any time.
Title Card: For wherever the sun rises and sets, in the city’s turmoil or under the open sky on the farm, life is much the same; sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet.

*  The original negatives of the film were destroyed in a fire in 1937.

* Fox studio’s first ever feature film with a recorded score.

* Was the first and only film to win the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ (AMPAS) ‘Best Picture’ award in the category of “Artistic Quality of Production” (or “Unique and Artistic Picture”). This was the only year that this award was ever given out.

* The scenes in the city were not filmed on location. They were filmed on a vast and expensive set, built especially for the movie.

* Many of the superimpositions throughout the film were created “in the camera”. The camera would shoot one image at the side of the frame, blacking out the rest of the shot, then expose the film. They would put the exposed film back into the camera and shoot again, blocking out the area that already had an image on it.

Director F.W. Murnau wanted Camilla Horn (with whom he had worked in Germany on _Faust (1926)_) for the part of “The Wife”, but she was under contract to the German studio UFA at the time and they refused to loan her out, so the part went to Janet Gaynor.
* Although well-received critically, this film did not do well at the box office, which led to the studio “reining in” F.W. Murnau creatively for his next several films.

In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #82 Greatest Movie of All Time. It was the first inclusion of this film on the list.(imdb)
* Much of the exterior shooting was done at Lake Arrowhead in California.
* Murnau makes extensive use of forced perspective throughout the film. Of special note is a shot of the City where you see normal-sized people and sets in the foreground and little people in the background along with much smaller sets. (wikipedia)

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
Directed by     F. W. Murnau
Produced by     William Fox
Written by     Carl Mayer
Hermann Sudermann
Starring     Janet Gaynor
George O’Brien
Margaret Livingston
Cinematography     Charles Rosher
Karl Struss
musical score by Hugo Riesenfeld
Editing by     Harold D. Schuster
Distributed by     Fox Film Corporation
Release date(s)     Sept. 23, 1927
Running time     95 minutes
Silent film
English intertitles
Similar Movies
Variété  (1925, Ewald André Dupont)
Lonesome  (1928, Paul Fejos)
Broken Blossoms  (1919, D.W. Griffith)
A Day in the Country  (1936, Jean Renoir)
Fièvre  (1921, Louis Delluc)
Menilmontant  (1925, Dimitri Kirsanoff)
An American Tragedy  (1931, Josef von Sternberg)
East Is East  (1916, Henry Edwards)
Movies with the Same Personnel
Tabu  (1931, Robert Flaherty, F.W. Murnau)
The Johnstown Flood Narrated  (1926, Irving Cummings)
A Star Is Born  (1937, Jack Conway, William Wellman)
No Man of Her Own  (1932, Wesley Ruggles)
The Farmer Takes a Wife  (1935, Victor Fleming)
I Loved a Woman  (1933, Alfred E. Green)
The Iron Horse  (1924, John Ford)
Romance in Manhattan  (1934, Pandro S. Berman, Stephen R. Roberts)
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is featured in:      Interview With the Vampire  (1994, Neil Jordan)
(wikipedia, filmsite.org http://www.allmovie.com)


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Directed by Erich von Stroheim and starring Gibson Gowland, Zasu Pitts, Jean Hersholt, Dale Fuller, Tempe Pigott, Sylvia Ashton, Chester Conklin, Joan Standing and Jack Curtis, ‘Greed’ is one of the greatest films ever made. It is a silent film and a morality play: it holds a mirror to our own psyche and though we may never play the part the shapes come to play therein, we may as well accept the truth it reveals.Truth of this film is greed and it is exclusively a human peculiarity that must make even man avowing highest ideals cringe. ‘Out, out with this damn spot,’ we may as well say and yet we shall pursue it with more resolve under some guise or other. Those who want to bring democracy into Iraq shall know that the underbelly of such risky venture only carries the ilks of Halliburton, Bechtel, KBR and what not and yet supposedly the idea ( of democracy)seems more a license than a right to fool the world.

At the opening of the film the title card reads a quote from the author of the book McTeague on which it is based: ‘I never truckled; I never took off the hat to Fashion and held it out for pennies. By God, I told them the truth. They liked it or they didn’t like it. What had that to do with me? I told them the truth; I knew it for the truth then, and I know it for the truth now.
Frank Norris’ powerful novel McTeague first came out in 1902 and was first filmed in 1915. It is the 1924 version is that we are presently concerned with. From early on Erich von Stroheim was attracted to the book and after scoring an enormous financial hit with Foolish Wives, in 1923, he began work on what he hoped would his masterpiece.


Stripped to its bare essentials, McTeague tells the story of a brute but basically good-natured miner named McTeague (played by Gibson Gowland), his wife Trina (ZaSu Pitts) and Marcus(Jean Hersholt), his best friend who later turns out to be his nemesis.
The eponymous character finds his true calling in life by taking over the practice of a traveling dentist. Setting up shop in San Francisco, McTeague falls in love with the daughter of German immigrants. It happens that Trina is the girlfriend of  Marcus who is mildly resentful, but ultimately forgiving, when McTeague and Trina are married. Always seeking out an opportunity to better herself, Trina buys a lottery ticket. When the ticket pays off and she wins a fortune, the previously even-tempered Trina undergoes a complete personality change, metamorphosing into a grasping, greedy, miserly shrew, hoarding huge sums of money while her husband must get by on his meager earnings as a dentist. Trina’s sudden windfall sparks a change in both McTeague and Marcus, as well; driven to distraction by his wife’s avarice, McTeague turns into a violent beast, while Marcus boils with jealousy over losing the now-prosperous Trina to McTeague. Pushed too far, McTeague ultimately murders Trina and escapes to the desert with her money. Appointed a sheriff’s deputy, the envious Marcus heads out to bring McTeague in, and the two men catch up with one another in the middle of Death Valley. Their water supply gone, their packhorse dead, McTeague and Marcus begin a fight to the death. McTeague manages to shoot and kill Marcus — only to discover that Marcus has manacled himself to McTeague. Utterly defeated, he sits benumbed on the scorching rocks, awaiting madness and a horrible death.
Marcus: There’s no water… within a hundred miles o’ here!
[the two men hopelessly stand by the dead mule in the middle of the desert]
Marcus: We… are… dead… men!

Filming at actual locations (the murder scene was shot at a locale where a real murder had occurred, while the sweltering Death Valley sequence was, likewise, made there), Von Stroheim remained doggedly faithful to the Norris original, shooting every page word for word. The end result ran 40 reels, or roughly 10 hours of screen time. Production head Irving Thalberg argued logically that no audience would sit still for ten hours of unrelenting realism. Von Stroheim reluctantly responded by paring his film down to 20 reels, but it was still far too long and depressing for MGM’s taste. It was edited even more – the current release version of the film is now shown at approximately two and a quarter hours (about 10 reels), one quarter of its original length. The severe editing was completed by Joe Farnham and June Mathis, Goldwyn’s story editor, who hadn’t read either the book or the screenplay. Reportedly, the 32 reels of edited negatives were melted down by MGM to extract the valuable silver nitrate from the film stock.

* Gibson Gowland as John McTeague
* Zasu Pitts as Trina
* Jean Hersholt as Marcus
* Dale Fuller as Maria
* Tempe Pigott as McTeague’s mother
* Jack Curtis as McTeague’s father (uncredited)
* Silvia Ashton as ‘Mommer’ Sieppe
* Chester Conklin as ‘Popper’ Sieppe
* Joan Standing as Selina

Directed by     Erich von Stroheim
Produced by     Irving Thalberg
Louis B. Mayer
Written by     June Mathis
Erich von Stroheim
Frank Norris (novel)
Distributed by     Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s)     December 4, 1924
Running time     140 min.
239 min. (restored)
Memorable Quote:
Trina: Let’s go sit on the sewer.

* MGM’s first feature-length movie.

* The original 42 reel version is one of the top ten “lost films” of the American Film Institute

* Jean Hersholt was hospitalized after he lost 27 pounds during the filming of the movie’s climax in Death Valley.

* Concerning the editor hired to cut “Greed” down to 2 hours, Erich von Stroheim supposedly commented: “The only thing he had on his mind was his hat!”

* Director Cameo: [Erich von Stroheim] as a balloon vendor (although only in a deleted sequence). McTeague and Trina buy balloons from the vendor on the street.

* The filming of the climax was actually the subject of an early silent newsreel. The facts reported by the newsreel concerning the Death Valley portion of the shooting: it took a day just to reach the location from the town of Keeler, California, they rode in a combination of cars and horses (one of the cars had the word “Greed” stenciled on it), water had to be rationed and they shot in August when temperatures were over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

•    The only screening of the original complete director’s cut was for a small group of reporters. One wrote a glowing review of it, using words like “wonderful” and “brilliant” to describe it, but lamented the fact that nobody else would ever see it.
Similar Movies
29th Street  (1992, George Gallo)
The Barbary Coast  (1935, Howard Hawks)
Citizen Kane  (1941, Orson Welles)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre  (1948, John Huston)
Wall Street  (1987, Oliver Stone)
L’Argent  (1929, Marcel L’Herbier)
The Trail of ’98  (1928, Clarence Brown)
Intolerance  (1916, D.W. Griffith)
Sátántangó  (1994, Béla Tarr)
Waking Ned Devine  (1998, Kirk Jones)
Movies with the Same Personnel
The Wedding March  (1928, Erich Von Stroheim)
Blind Husbands  (1919, Erich Von Stroheim)
Queen Kelly  (1929, Erich Von Stroheim)
Foolish Wives  (1922, Erich Von Stroheim)
The Devil’s Passkey  (1920, Erich Von Stroheim)
The Merry Widow  (1925, Erich Von Stroheim)
Grand Illusion  (1937, Jean Renoir)
Hello Sister!  (1933, Erich Von Stroheim, Alan Crosland)
Other Related Movies
Grand Illusion  (1937, Jean Renoir)
Life’s a Whirlpool  (1916, Barry O’Neill)


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“The close quarter combat between Joan and her judges” is how Carl Theodor Dreyer described his vision of the film. It is set in a claustrophobic space in which we feel one with the Maid of Orleans. We also get caught up in the terror her face registers in the flurry of close-ups; her tremulous face intercut with the physiognomy of her oppressors, flat and unintelligent faces  remind one of Hieronymous Bosch. ‘Christ mocked’ and ‘Christ wearing a crown of thorns ’ for example. Much has been made of the film’s unusual number of close-ups; Dreyer uses the device to drag the viewer into the psyche of the subject. Maria Falconetti’s face, with its strange luminousness and mournful looks, present an ideal map for an unequal combat the evil clerics at the behest of the English wage on an emotional plane. Close-ups serve an ideal vehicle for that. The performance of Renee Maria Falconetti has been hailed as one of cinema’s greatest.
The minions who watch over the vulnerable in a prison are often noted for sadistic streak. When the tonsured tormentors pause for thinking up a fresh stratagem these oafs takeover in subjecting her to indignities. One such insult is platting of a crown on the maid’s head and the intended comparison to the Son of Man is very telling. The Church with its unlimited power shall always crucify the one who could bring salvation. The maid of Orleans was Christlike in wanting to rid the land of foreign occupation and she must die in ignominy. Perhaps we need to put this film in historical perspective: Joan of Arc was canonized by the Catholic Church only some seven years earlier.The movie is in a way vindication of the untutored heroine who dared to do the impossible purely on the strength of her inner calling.
The film like the maid had a checquered career. French nationalists objected to the idea of a Dane, and a non-Catholic one at that, interpreting the history of their beloved Joan. After its release, English censors objected to what it saw as unacceptably negative portrayals of the English forces who were partly responsible — in alliance with the corrupt French church — for the death of Joan. The Archbishop of Paris’s demand for changes was only the beginning of a series of mutilations. In 1933, the film, which failed at the box office in spite of many glowing reviews, resurfaced in a truncated version (82 minutes cut to 61)
In a surprise discovery that parallels Joan’s resurrection (as a historical hero) and rehabilitation in the pantheon of French heroes along with Foch,Napoleon and deGaulle, a complete original print of Dreyer’s original cut was found in a Norwegian mental hospital closet in 1981. The print had apparently been ordered by a doctor there in the 1930s. This version, called the “Oslo print” to distinguish it from its many predecessors, had some damage but was digitally restored to pristine condition with 20,320 individual changes.

Dreyer drew almost entirely on transcripts of Joan’s 1429 trial for his dialogue. If Dreyer disliked being labeled  “avant garde,” he did agree with “documentary” as a description. The film supports this in many respects. Dreyer’s demand for realism dictated some bizarre strategies. Perhaps the experience was too much for Mlle. Falconetti that she never again acted in another film. The actors were signed exclusively to him for the film’s shooting time from May to November 1927, so they had to “live” their roles to the point of keeping their hair cut so it never appeared to change. This was understandable for the lower churchmen who wore visible tonsures — bald heads with a fringe of hair. But Dreyer also demanded that the higher officials keep their tonsures cut, in spite of the fact that their hair was invisible under the grandiose caps they wore throughout. The cast occasionally got back at him, at least verbally. They secretly began referring to him as “Gruyere” because the set had as many “holes” (trenches Dreyer built for making low-angle shots) as Swiss cheese.

He refused to allow his actors to use makeup, an unheard-of demand at that time. He even dropped the credits — they were later restored — in order to increase the viewer’s belief in the story. He also disavowed musical scores (though the film was presented with them) as distracting and antithetical to the reality of the onscreen world.
But the thrust of the film is the power of spiritual opposition to earthly ambition and corruption, a theme so pervasive and felt that even the architecture supports it. Joan is seen mostly in isolated shots, emblems of her lonely battle against the church and the military, but behind her the viewer is always aware of the serene, almost glowing white walls, a constant reminder of Joan’s purity and transcendence in the face of corrupt earthly forces.

Dreyer would go on to create at least three classics of world cinema (Day of Wrath, Ordet, and Gertrud), but in some ways this is his most radical film. he saw as above all a human document. It’s hard to think of a better term, however, for the film’s visual style. There’s the famous use (some said over-use) of close-ups; surprising images such as the “upside-down and backward” shot of English soldiers; and the swinging camera that makes a building appear to be moving.
The startled flight of pigeons from the Church spires as Joan is being burnt may be a cliché now but then it must have come as very refreshingly new.
The film’s realism — helped immeasurably by Rudolph Mate’s brilliant cinematography — it’s also one of the most stylized, unrealistic in the annals of cinema. Production designer Hermann Warm, famous for his expressionist sets for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, based his work here on a combination of medieval woodcuts and the then-voguish surrealist movement. This is seen in the otherworldly white architecture that recalls the still, strange world of the painter De Chirico.
Dreyer as mentioned before was always known as a controlling, dictatorial director, and with a then-vast budget of $7 million francs (which bloated to $9 million by the end of shooting), he was allowed some luxuries that few filmmakers would see, before or since. He had an enormous, expensive three-dimensional set built, almost none of which is seen in recognizable form in the movie (much to the producers’ chagrin). He shot reams of film, which unexpectedly paid off later when he was forced to construct a new negative out of the ample supply of alternate takes. The film’s over 1,300 individual shots is more than twice the number found in an average feature of the time.
Scenes from Passion appear in Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre sa Vie (1962), in which the protagonist Nana sees the film at a cinema and identifies with Joan. In Henry & June, Henry Miller is shown watching the last scenes of the film and in voiceover narrates a letter to Anaïs Nin comparing her to Joan and himself to the “mad monk” character played by Antonin Artaud.

The Passion of Joan of Arc has appeared on Sight & Sound’s top ten films poll three times:

* 1952: #7[5]
* 1972: #7[6]
* 1992: #10 (Critic’s List)and #6 (Director’s List)[7]

It placed 31st in the 2002 Director’s poll and 14th on the Critic’s poll. Maria Falconetti’s performance was named the 26th greatest ever on Premiere Magazine’s 100 Greatest Performances of All Time.
Memorable Quotes:
Juge(judge): How old are you?
Jeanne d’Arc: [counts on her fingers] Nineteen… I think.
Juge: What is your name?
Jeanne d’Arc: In France, I am called Joan… in my village, I am called Jeanneton.
Jeanne d’Arc: [talking to God] Will I be with You tonight in Paradise?
Juge: Has God promised you things?
Jeanne d’Arc: That has nothing to do with this trial!
Maria Falconetti     …     Jeanne d’Arc
Eugene Silvain    …     Évêque Pierre Cauchon (Bishop Pierre Cauchon)
André Berley    …     Jean d’Estivet
Maurice Schutz    …     Nicolas Loyseleur
Antonin Artaud    …     Jean Massieu
Michel Simon    …     Jean Lemaître
Jean d’Yd    …     Guillaume Evrard
Louis Ravet    …     Jean Beaupère (as Ravet)
Armand Lurville    …     Juge (Judge) (as André Lurville)
Jacques Arnna    …     Juge (Judge)
Alexandre Mihalesco    …     Juge (Judge)
Léon Larive    …     Juge (Judge)

* After completing the original cut of the film, director Carl Theodor Dreyer learned that the entire master print had been accidentally destroyed. With no ability to re-shoot, Dreyer re-edited the entire film from footage he had originally rejected.

* Real blood from a real puncture wound was used in the scene in which Joan’s arm is cut, but it was that of a stand-in and not Maria Falconetti.

* The film took a year and a half to complete.

Ack: http://www.brightlights.com Gary Morris,January 2000 | Issue 27,wikipedia,imdb.com
My special thanks go to Maid Marian classic films for letting me watch the film(with French subtitles). Share the experience and support http://www.youtube.com/maidmarian.

Compiler: benny

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