This movie is a masterpiece.
I knew nothing of this movie until I took a class specifically on silent film my junior year. It was introduced to me (as I’m sure it’s usually introduced to people), as a huge influence on Scorsese. And when you see it, you can tell. This is the original New York gangster picture. And it really just jumps off the screen, even though it was made now over 100 years ago. It’s absolutely tremendous.
It’s a simple story. Poor couple in New York, in love. He’s a musician, and she… pretty much sits around the apartment with “ma.” (But since all Ma does is sit around in a chair in the center of the frame, we know she’ll be dead before the end of the movie. Which, pro tip… if any character in a movie pre-1915 is sitting lethargically in a chair or laying down in a bed in the front of the frame… they’re going to die.) There’s actually a great shot at the beginning of the movie where we have this whole scene with the two of them talking, and then he leaves and we realize, “Holy fuck, there’s an old woman who’s been sitting in a chair in the room right behind where they were standing the entire time.”
Which is something I like to see in all my movies. (more…)