Film First Friday: Return of the Lifeboat (1897)
The first multi-shot scene in the history of film!
The first multi-shot scene in the history of film!
The camera, thanks to a gondola, at long last moves.
Sure it’s been around the web but the succinctness of this form rejection checklist is enviable for a script-reader even if it isn’t always constructive for the writer. It is, and could be a tremendous object lesson for screenwriters about dealing with rejection and the varying degrees of feedback they might get. Start from this and work in increasing degrees to interact further and polish the concept. Make use of it if needed and check out Open Culture for more gems like this!
It would be noteworthy enough for being the world’s first animated film, but considering when it dates from it’s rather amazing. Enjoy!
The first thing that needs saying is that there are conventions that need to be acknowledged if you are going to venture out and watch this or any silent film. Silent film acting, for example, is by its very nature more demonstrative and over-the-top than even the presentational style that dominated after the advent of sound, and most definitely can cause culture shock to those who are used to film actors of the Post-Brando world. It has to be taken as a given.
Some silent actors are clearly better than others but the style can’t be held against the film, it is what it is. While saying that Brigitte Helm is quite good in this film, she may go a little too far when she’s playing the evil robotic alter ego of her character but she is clearly two different people in those scenes. Gustav Fröhlich is an effective lead who portrays the audience’s POV aptly.
The image quality is superb for a bulk of the film, meaning the portions we already knew existed. They look as crisp and clear as they likely did in 1927, perhaps even better. While the transferred 16mm footage doesn’t look quite that good with many lines, which have been dulled and are nearly translucent running through it, they are without question an invaluable addition to the narrative.
Not only did the restorers fully explain the story of the footage’s discovery and how it was added back to the cut they also noted that the image size would change to keep less than knowledgeable patrons from complaining. Better yet they had some fun with the titles. Not only did they digitally create newer, more accurate ones, they added motion to those which referred to the workers underground and the elite up above the city.
The restoration of the original score, as best as it could be replicated, is also a welcome and brilliant touch. The end credits acknowledge the fact that some pieces of the music had to be created by educated guess and rarely could you tell. It was pretty seamless, and, moreover, the impact of the film is enhanced twenty-fold. Typically on DVD releases, especially the cheaper ones, which is how I was accustomed to seeing Metropolis; you get stock, canned, jazzy nonsense that rarely if ever really syncs. You can almost imagine the producers of said DVD sitting around picking a track because it synced in one spot. The score is breathtaking and absolutely draws you into the tale, if all else should fail.
While you should be forewarned that all we know should be in this film isn’t, as there are titles describing the rare scene that could not be saved or found. You will witness here, in greater fullness than ever before, the enormity and vastness of Lang’s vision. His vistas come through and the added running time gives this seemingly simple through-line the time to make the impact it seeks to make. It is, if you dig deep enough, a more complex and involved visual narrative than many may give it credit for. While we today will not be jarred by the seemingly contrasting styles of the sub-plots; there is a grab bag of visual elements worth exploring.
For a modern audience the message of the film, which is repeated on quite a few occasions, may seem a little heavy-handed, again I warn you that it must be taken with a grain of salt. Think of other silents you know and enjoy and consider if they too aren’t very on the head. You know exactly what the message of The Immigrant and The Kid are but they work anyway. Typically, you are told someone’s profession or that they are the hero before you see them, which is also less cinematic than desirable but the language of film was new and it was important to be simple and direct. It bears noting that Metropolis is not overly-laden with titles and it just works.
Seeing this new cut of Metropolis will not be like watching a regurgitated version of something you’ve seen before. It will be like a whole new experience. Not only do you see it on the big screen but you see it sharper and more clearly than you’ve likely ever seen it before. It really is like the saying goes; see it again for the first time.
I had quite a review drought to end 2011 so I think the remedy for this kind of post would be to have the post be cumulative monthly. Therefore, after each qualifying film a short write-up will be added to the monthly post. The mini-reviews will be used to discuss Netflix and other home video screenings.
For a guide to what scores mean go here.
The Whisperer in the Darkness
The Whisperer in Darkness was a film I just had to see. After having seen The Call of Cthulhu, which was a short, silent version of a Lovecraft classic, I knew I’d want to see anything this company (known as the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society) did.
In their newest film, and first feature, they tackle The Whisperer in Darkness and shifted from a silent film representation to a monster film of the 1930s approach. In both cases, the style of film that is emulated perfectly suits the work being interpreted.
I firmly believe this to be the case, regardless of your familiarity with either of these very distinct niches. If you are unfamiliar with Lovecraft this is a great introduction as it very faithfully, but also intriguingly in cinematic terms, renders the narrative. Any admirer of film, regardless of what era(s) they prefer, will recognize some of the conventions on display in this film, and as details of the narrative unfold it’ll become clear the choice is an inspired one.
Much of this is a roundabout way of saying that odds are you’ll like this if you go in with the knowledge of what the film is attempting, and you could be a fan of either or neither end of the narrative equation and walk away liking it. However, if you like both it’s rather heavenly, or should I say hellacious? Either way, it’s great stuff.
I can’t put it right at the top, but when all is said and done, Intruders will likely end up being one of my favorite horror films of the year. It starts almost immediately with a scene that you think will just be a great teaser but instead ends up being the first building block in a parallel storyline (in terms of both time and place). Aside from being a bi-lingual film, the film does a great job mirroring certain themes and elements in the storylines, giving elements different spins in each. The film is very tense but also cloistered in its drama and fear-inducing, which it makes it very effective indeed. To say too much more would be to start giving things away. I think that fans of the horror genre, Spanish horror in particular should see this film.
To accentuate the positive first, I cannot, nor can anyone in all likelihood, accuse Detention of being unoriginal or predictable. One of its few perks is that it does not ever make it obvious where it’s going next, and in its own insane way does manage to link everything together in the end. However, the film seems to think it’s a lot more clever and funny than I find it to be. It’s part (sub)genre-hopping horror/sci-fi and mostly comedy but the comedy portion is very forced, nearly all of it. Few and far between are the jokes that work for me and rarely did jokes strike me as genuine reflections of character. Instead the characters always seem to be in a state of limbo between being a stand-in for a horror archetype and a human vessel for a punchline.
I can see how the film has produced divisive reactions, and I always prefer a film that strives for divisiveness. When all is said and done, attempting to please everyone creates tepid cinema. Truly universal stories, at their core, come from a very personal place- so, I can easily see how this might be someone else’s cup of tea, but it’s not mine.
I tend to take my time to even send out a tweet reaction to a film most of the time. In very vague terms I’ll know walking out of a film, if I liked it or not. However, to what extent I did and what I thought of it usually takes a little time to decide. It’s the rare film that plays on my mind for a while.
Lovely Molly is one of those films. My initial tweet about it, when I did finally mention it, was slightly mis-worded: it’s not that the film is difficult to follow, it’s not; the denseness and nebulousness comes in the ‘answers’ the film gives to questions it poses. They’re not entirely clear, they invite debate, they invite you to re-view the film; but they are all chilling and surprising.
The film also features a fabulous performance by Gretchen Lodge, which makes you stand up and take notice.
This film made me realize that there are two kinds of re-viewable films ones that could get massively better and one with a definite ceiling. This film is the latter kind, but worth giving your own shot.
The Moth Diaries
It’s a bit of a shame when a film that offers a different perspective on a subgenre fails to catch lightning in a bottle. The Moth Diaries is not only subtle vampire tale set at an all girls school, but is also directed by a woman. It’s a slow-burn, which never quite catches fire all the way and it doesn’t really bend convention too much save for the casting and setting. Some of the better parts of the film are the overt allusions to the Gothic literature, from which all vampire tales draw at least some inspiration, which doesn’t bode too well for the piece at hand. The film doesn’t seem to detach itself too much from the source material, and there is an excessive amount of voice over for the story being told. Perhaps the novel is a better vehicle for this tale than the film as constructed.
Recently, while scrolling through Twitter I noticed quite a few people posting that the National Film Preservation Board is allowing the general public to suggest titles to be entered to the National Film Registry for the first time. You can read the pertinent details here. The only thing I found a bit confusing was whether an individual can select 50 titles from a calendar year (e.g. 1933) or if and individual may only suggest 50 per year. I erred toward the latter option. My choices feature many Hitchcock, Disney, horror, Looney Tunes; a few silents, docs, and the occasional footnote. What’s great is that since 575 films have been picked in 23 years they provide a list of significant films not yet selected for you to peruse. Of course, you can submit whatever you like if it fits their criteria. I made all my selections 25 years or older, however, the official cut-off is 10 years.
The National Film Registry was instituted after a bill was passed “Congress first established the National Film Registry in the 1988 National Film Preservation Act, and most recently extended the Registry with passage of the Library of Congress Sound Recording and Film Preservation Programs Reauthorization Act of 2008 (PL110-336).” So, essentially these are your tax dollars at work, America, so make some suggestions. If you’re curious you can read mine below:
1. Suspense (1913)
2. The Perils of Pauline (1914)
3. Charlie the Champion (1915)
4. Mickey’s Orphan’s (1931)
5. Skippy (1931)
6. Island of Lost Souls (1931)
7. Wild Boys of the Road (1931)
8. Babes in Toyland (1934)
9. Manhattan Melodrama (1934)
10. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935)
11. Son of Frankenstein (1939)
12. Rebecca (1940)
13. Dumbo (1941)
14. The Little Foxes (1941)
15. The Wolf Man (1941)
16. Gaslight (1944)
17. Mrs. Parkington (1944)
18. Three Caballeros (1945)
19. The Yearling (1946)
20. Panic in the Streets (1950)
21. Strangers on a Train (1951)
22. Limelight (1952)
23. House of Wax (1953)
24. It Came from Outer Space (1953)
25. Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
26. Them! (1954)
27.Lady and the Tramp (1955)
28. The Trouble with Harry (1955)
29. Forbidden Planet (1956)
30. Ali Baba Bunny (1957)
31. Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
32. The Children’s Hour (1961)
33. The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
34. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
35. The Birds (1963)
36. Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964)
37. Wait Until Dark (1967)
38. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
39. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
40. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
41. Carrie (1976)
42. Burden of Dreams (1982)
43. The Big Chill (1983)
44. A Christmas Story (1983)
45. National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
46. Terms of Endearment (1983)
47. Amadeus (1984)
48. The Times of Harvey Milk (1984)
49. The Breakfast Club (1985)
50. Stand by Me (1986)