Silent Feature Sunday: The Gold Rush (1925)

When I first posted this series part of the idea was to get to watching more silent films. However, that has yet to pan out (yet?). And rather than skipping an opportunity to post one such that its easily accessible where it may not be expected simply because it’d be “Yet another Chaplin film” I posted, I decided to share it.

I keep the spiel simple here. Lost in the debating that film enthusiasts have about Chaplin’s place (read ranking) in film history is the fact that he wrote, directed and even scored many of his films. However, this is not meant to draw another comparison, but rather just something that needs to be noted. The appeal of The Gold Rush is fairly apparent. Enjoy!

The film can be seen at the following link The Gold Rush (1925).

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Silent Feature Sunday: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)

Introduction

While I do watch many new films, and have annual awards and will discuss current cinematic topics. Part of my desire to create my own site was to not have an agenda forced upon me that was not my own. This allows me to discuss films from all periods of history whenever I see fit. Recently my Short Film Saturday posts have been running toward silents more often. I questioned this tactic for a second until I realized that if I really do hope to encompass all of film history then the silent era most definitely should not be ignored. If you mark the silent era from the birth of film (1895) to the first talkie (1927), and I realize it could be argued that the silent era stretched a few years beyond that, and also that there were experiments with sound very early; that’s still 27% of film history at current which was entirely silent. Therefore a weekly post (or, however often I put it up) is not out of line at all mathematically or otherwise.

The good news is that many silent films are available to watch online, and are in the public domain. So I will feature some here.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)

Folks, the intent here initially was to get to see some new silent features I’ve not seen. However, in certain cases I have been pressed for time to screen them. But, wanting to keep this post active I have dug around and found some titles that I have seen that I had not considered yet.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is what I would describe as one of the great stories, which in my vernacular means that I’ll gladly take in many renditions of it. This 1920 version features John Barrymore and is among the best of the bunch. Enjoy!

Silent Feature Sunday: Waxworks (1924)

While I do watch many new films, and have annual awards and will discuss current cinematic topics. Part of my desire to create my own site was to not have an agenda forced upon me that was not my own. This allows me to discuss films from all periods of history whenever I see fit. Recently my Short Film Saturday posts have been running toward silents more often. I questioned this tactic for a second until I realized that if I really do hope to encompass all of film history then the silent era most definitely should not be ignored. If you mark the silent era from the birth of film (1895) to the first talkie (1927), and I realize it could be argued that the silent era stretched a few years beyond that, and also that there were experiments with sound very early; that’s still 27% of film history at current which was entirely silent. Therefore a weekly post (or, however often I put it up) is not out of line at all mathematically or otherwise.

The good news is that many silent films are available to watch online, and are in the public domain. So I will feature some here.

Waxworks (1924)

I initially planned on including this film as a literal 61 Days of Halloween selection because I have a DVD of it that I’d been meaning to watch. As it happens, after I saw it on the DVD I learned that it is available online so I decided to feature it here. One reason I did is because it’s a good chance to discuss different versions of Silents available. Most of it has to do with image quality. This YouTube version is the newly restored cut but the compression is not as good as a professionally manufactured DVD. Movies Silently has a wonderful, comprehensive post on this very topic that is worth reading.

As for the film, for an anthology it has quite an unusual structure. Two of the stories are in excess of 30 minutes in length, while the last is just 10 or so. However, due to the way the stories are handled it works. The third is the most expressionistic and visually arresting. The entire film uses tinting to great effect. I had not gotten around to seeing Paul Leni’s work, which are few yet highly regarded, and this film is a good start to the viewing. Enjoy!

Silent Feature Sunday- Haxan (1922)

While I do watch many new films, and have annual awards and will discuss current cinematic topics. Part of my desire to create my own site was to not have an agenda forced upon me that was not my own. This allows me to discuss films from all periods of history whenever I see fit. Recently my Short Film Saturday posts have been running toward silents more often. I questioned this tactic for a second until I realized that if I really do hope to encompass all of film history then the silent era most definitely should not be ignored. If you mark the silent era from the birth of film (1895) to the first talkie (1927), and I realize it could be argued that the silent era stretched a few years beyond that, and also that there were experiments with sound very early; that’s still 27% of film history at current which was entirely silent. Therefore a weekly post (or, however often I put it up) is not out of line at all mathematically or otherwise.

The good news is that many silent films are available to watch online, and are in the public domain. So I will feature some here.

Yes, folks, I missed this post last week. The reason was I had a feature I’d not seen scheduled and I didn’t have the time to see it. This weekend I wanted to get you at least one title I had already seen. Thankfully, in researching I found I had neglected Häxan. In fact, it’s a title I previously wrote about. Here are some of my thoughts on it when I discussed its DVD release.

Häxan is a fascinating piece of cinematic history for a number of reasons – the first certainly being that it is one of the earliest films to straddle the line between fact and fiction; narrative and documentary. Second, because it is one of the earlier (#134) releases by the Criterion Collection.

The film tells its tale of witchcraft and satanism from the middle ages through the modern times. It cleverly uses vignettes (dramatizations if you prefer) and slides, illustrations etc. It goes from a title describing reasoning and custom behind an act or belief to a scene in which it is depicted or to an illustration where typically a pencil held by an unknown person indicates to us the area of interest.

The film goes along chapter by chapter revealing reason and the cause and effect of the hysteria concerning witches and the devil. Although, we at one point find out that several trials involve people from the same household there is little by way of a through-line, and that is by design. However, it does make it slightly troublesome to follow in part because you expect it to come back to one scenario or another but it doesn’t. Alas, one of the perils of blending fact and fiction, it moves and is structured like a doc but is portrayed as fiction much of the time so the audience member expects similar conventions.

Towards the end it does do a fascinating feat of simulacrum and tell the audience its reusing actors, does demonstrations and the titles take on a very analytical approach but it is some of the more enjoyable stuff in the film.

Criterion gets very high marks for this particular release for a number of reasons. First, there are two versions of the film on this DVD – one the 1922 silent, and then a 1968 re-score, voice-over included re-do by avant-gardists called Witchcraft Through the Ages.

In the former Criterion did a great job re-recording the score and returning the film to its original intended tinting. Tinting was a fabulous technique which was widely practiced in the silent era because it gave you the wonderful contrast and grain of black and white but it was bright and lively. It was also a tremendous tool for symbolism of time, place, emotion and so forth as colors hold many associations for people.

The original Häxan is very much worth watching.

I scored Häxan a 7/10. Enjoy!

Silent Feature Sunday: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

While I do watch many new films, and have annual awards and will discuss current cinematic topics. Part of my desire to create my own site was to not have an agenda forced upon me that was not my own. This allows me to discuss films from all periods of history whenever I see fit. Recently my Short Film Saturday posts have been running toward silents more often. I questioned this tactic for a second until I realized that if I really do hope to encompass all of film history then the silent era most definitely should not be ignored. If you mark the silent era from the birth of film (1895) to the first talkie (1927), and I realize it could be argued that the silent era stretched a few years beyond that, and also that there were experiments with sound very early; that’s still 27% of film history at current which was entirely silent. Therefore a weekly post (or, however often I put it up) is not out of line at all mathematically or otherwise.

The good news is that many silent films are available to watch online, and are in the public domain. So I will feature some here.

As I hinted at last week when discussing a film I was lukewarm about, this is a film I unabashedly love. Watching silent films is a habit, and one I admit to only practicing irregularly, so part of what makes this film stand out is that I sought this it out on my own after seeing a bit of it and watched myself. It’s quite a breathtaking experience in every way, but one can really see why German Expressionism really took hold in America and elsewhere. It’s an all encompassing approach that creates tremendous atmosphere and is ideal for horror films.

Enjoy!

Silent Feature Sunday: Nosferatu (1922)

While I do watch many new films, and have annual awards and will discuss current cinematic topics. Part of my desire to create my own site was to not have an agenda forced upon me that was not my own. This allows me to discuss films from all periods of history whenever I see fit. Recently my Short Film Saturday posts have been running toward silents more often. I questioned this tactic for a second until I realized that if I really do hope to encompass all of film history then the silent era most definitely should not be ignored. If you mark the silent era from the birth of film (1895) to the first talkie (1927), and I realize it could be argued that the silent era stretched a few years beyond that, and also that there were experiments with sound very early; that’s still 27% of film history at current which was entirely silent. Therefore a weekly post (or, however often I put it up) is not out of line at all mathematically or otherwise.

The good news is that many silent films are available to watch online, and are in the public domain. So I will feature some here.

Nosferatu (1922)

While 61 Days of Halloween is going on this will be a horror-themed post as well. This will allow me to see some horror silents I’ve not yet viewed. However, I figured I’d start with a staple. I must admit I’m not a huge fan of this film. However, I do like it. It’s not quite another Freaks for me, I like it better than that. It’s just quite meet the hype when I saw it, which was a while ago. Next week, however, I will have a film I love…a lot. Regardless, enjoy and may the horror begin!

Silent Feature Sunday: Man With a Movie Camera (1929)

While I do watch many new films, and have annual awards and will discuss current cinematic topics. Part of my desire to create my own site was to not have an agenda forced upon me that was not my own. This allows me to discuss films from all periods of history whenever I see fit. Recently my Short Film Saturday posts have been running toward silents more often. I questioned this tactic for a second until I realized that if I really do hope to encompass all of film history then the silent era most definitely should not be ignored. If you mark the silent era from the birth of film (1895) to the first talkie (1927), and I realize it could be argued that the silent era stretched a few years beyond that, and also that there were experiments with sound very early; that’s still 27% of film history at current which was entirely silent. Therefore a weekly post (or, however often I put it up) is not out of line at all mathematically or otherwise.

The good news is that many silent films are available to watch online, and are in the public domain. So I will feature some here.

Coming two years after the release of Berlin: Portrait of a Great City, Man with a Movie Camera is a more kaleidoscopic and dizzyingly, intoxicating piece of early Cinéma vérité, or as the director of this film, and true forerunner of the movement; Dziga Vertov called it Kino-Pravda. The idea is the same: a portrait of a city (this time Moscow) from day-to-night, sure there’s a more Stalinist slant here, but while the politics may be dépassé or objectionable but the cinema is eternal.

Silent Feature Sunday- Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927)

While I do watch many new films, and have annual awards and will discuss current cinematic topics. Part of my desire to create my own site was to not have an agenda forced upon me that was not my own. This allows me to discuss films from all periods of history whenever I see fit. Recently my Short Film Saturday posts have been running toward silents more often. I questioned this tactic for a second until I realized that if I really do hope to encompass all of film history then the silent era most definitely should not be ignored. If you mark the silent era from the birth of film (1895) to the first talkie (1927), and I realize it could be argued that the silent era stretched a few years beyond that, and also that there were experiments with sound very early; that’s still 27% of film history at current which was entirely silent. Therefore a weekly post (or, however often I put it up) is not out of line at all mathematically or otherwise.

The good news is that many silent films are available to watch online, and are in the public domain. So I will feature some here.

When writing of this film as one of my favorite older films first seen in 2011, I wrote:

One of the most accurate titles you’re likely to see. It is the day in the life of a major metropolitan area but the way it’s cut and shot really is symphonic.

While I was economical to not blurb that post into being completely over-bloated, it did also remind me of another film, about another city that blew my mind. That’s as much as I’ll say now as I hope to feature it next week.

Enjoy!

Silent Feature Sunday: Battleship Potemkin (1925)

While I do watch many new films, and have annual awards and will discuss current cinematic topics. Part of my desire to create my own site was to not have an agenda forced upon me that was not my own. This allows me to discuss films from all periods of history whenever I see fit. Recently my Short Film Saturday posts have been running toward silents more often. I questioned this tactic for a second until I realized that if I really do hope to encompass all of film history then the silent era most definitely should not be ignored. If you mark the silent era from the birth of film (1895) to the first talkie (1927), and I realize it could be argued that the silent era stretched a few years beyond that, and also that there were experiments with sound very early; that’s still 27% of film history at current which was entirely silent. Therefore a weekly post (or, however often I put it up) is not out of line at all mathematically or otherwise.

The good news is that many silent films are available to watch online, and are in the public domain. So I will feature some here.

When I was studying film, from one source or another, I heard it said that Eisenstein’s work was more interesting in an academic sense than any other. Having sought out and seen this film on my own after having seen the famous “Odessa Steps” sequence, I could not have disagreed with this statement more. Surely, in a historical context one cannot explain the art of editing without discussing Eisenstein. For it was both in practice and theory that he pushed it forward as the essential component in the art. Yet I found the film tremendously gripping. In his book Film Form he explains himself that its structuring has much to do with it both here:

Potemkin looks like a chronicle or a newsreel of an event, but it functions like a drama.

The secret of this lies in the fact that the chronicle pace of is fitted to a severely tragic composition. And furthermore, to tragic composition in its most canonic form – the five-act tragedy.

And here:

The utility in the choice of a five-act structure in particular, for this tragedy was, of course, by no means accidental, but was the result of prolonged natural selection…

The impact of this structural decision is redoubled in my estimation by the film’s slender running time (75 minutes, officially speaking). It’s not a wonder then that some may not connect, seeing as a five-act structure can be seen as archaic, and some films who can be argued to employ one (such as A.I.) can disengage people.

That temporally truncated approach to a classical epic structure is only a small part of why it works for me. Regardless of whether or not it does for you this is one you should scratch of your list, which is another reason I’ve chosen to take on this theme, both to introduce essentials and to see more myself.

Enjoy!

Silent Feature Sunday: The Kid (1921)

While I do watch many new films, and have annual awards and will discuss current cinematic topics. Part of my desire to create my own site was to not have an agenda forced upon me that was not my own. This allows me to discuss films from all periods of history whenever I see fit. Recently my Short Film Saturday posts have been running toward silents more often. I questioned this tactic for a second until I realized that if I really do hope to encompass all of film history then the silent era most definitely should not be ignored. If you mark the silent era from the birth of film (1895) to the first talkie (1927), and I realize it could be argued that the silent era stretched a few years beyond that, and also that there were experiments with sound very early; that’s still 27% of film history at current which was entirely silent. Therefore a weekly post (or, however often I put it up) is not out of line at all mathematically or otherwise.

The good news is that many silent films are available to watch online, and are in the public domain. So I will feature some here.

As this series progresses I fully intend to discover new silents through it. However, as I get it started I figure what better way to do so than to start with ones that I know best, and have known for the longest. As a long-time fan of Charles Chaplin it’s hard to say if this is my favorite. I may be more inclined to lean towards Modern Times or, dare I be so blasphemous as to say, The Great Dictator (seeing how it is his capitulation to talkies), but what I can say about The Kid is that it does perhaps do the best of combining Chaplin’s comedic skill, dramatic sensibilities and whimsy. Enjoy!