Until about a month ago, the choice for 1922 was not this, but was instead, Nosferatu. But then I started writing up The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari for 1920, and I went, “Wait, I’m basically just going to say the same stuff for Nosferatu as I am for this.” The only difference being I’d talk about some framing stuff Murnau does with the arches and stuff. So I looked at what else I could possibly use, knowing that I could always default to, “Well, that Nosferatu shot is iconic, and nothing else was able to top it, so…”
But I quickly found this movie. The Toll of the Sea. And that immediately became the choice because I had stuff to talk about with it. Sure, Nosferatu is the most famous film of 1922, but, since I want stuff to talk about, I’ve decided to make this the film that defines 1922 for this list’s purposes. This is arguably the most important film of 1922, even if you probably haven’t heard of it.
This film is the second movie ever shot in Technicolor. (The first film, The Gulf Between, is considered lost.) It was the first Technicolor feature made in Hollywood. So essentially the first Technicolor feature. (more…)
We talked about Charlie Chaplin already, but we talked about the importance of the Tramp as a character, and his place in silent film history. And, to a lesser extent, we talked about two-reel comedy shorts, which are a very famous section of film history, especially during the years we talked about them.
This, however, is a different animal. This is Charlie Chaplin doing features. And I will be talking specifically about this film, and specifically how Chaplin managed to infuse comedy with drama, and tell a story that makes an audience laugh and cry at the same time. The man was truly a master at eliciting emotion.
Look at the sequence in this movie where they come to take the kid away, and the Tramp runs across the rooftops to get him back. It’s so heartbreaking. The whole thing. Chaplin really manages to turn the movie on a dime. He gets you invested in the characters through comedy, and then makes things dramatic on you. And it works. You don’t turn on the film at all. Instead, you’re really invested in what happens to the characters. And that’s a really great skill to have that not many people can do correctly. There’s a fine line between comedy and tragedy, and Chaplin really manages to know exactly how and when to walk that line. (more…)
Caligari. Our first horror movie. Possibly the first horror film.
There were some scary/horror shorts made earlier, like The Haunted Castle, and a 1910 version of Frankenstein, but in terms of straight up horror features, nobody had the ball rolling quite like ze Germans did. German Expressionist filmmaking is not only the basis for all horror movies of the next few decades, but also of other genres, like noir. And 1920 was really the year where horror movies took off, mainly with Caligari as well as Der Golem. (I could say THE Golem, but, no I can’t.) And of course, Nosferatu, two years after this as well, is another very famous early horror film.
Mostly I’m here to talk about the impact of German Expressionism on later film. Caligari is a great film in its own regard, but it’s really its style that would resonate most throughout film history. (more…)
1919 is a rough year for film. I thought 1917 was tough… nothing compared to 1919. Almost everything I could have chosen would have led to me talking about the same stuff I’ve already talked about. So I just defaulted to Broken Blossoms, which is the most famous film of 1919, getting a D.W. Griffith bump, and, as it turns out, it actually ended up being a good choice, since I did find something really interesting to talk about.
Full disclosure – I’d never seen the film before I started this feature. And my requisite for choosing any film was that I’d had to have seen it, because otherwise, how do you talk about it?
So I watched this film, and… first off, I thought it was about white slavery until I did. Am I confusing this with another Griffith movie? I thought maybe it was Orphans of the Storm, but that’s not it. I don’t know. For the longest time I thought this movie was about white slavery. Maybe after Thoroughly Modern Millie, every movie with Chinese people is somewhat about white slavery for me.
Anyway, I figured out pretty quickly what I’m going to talk about with this film, and that’s good old-fashioned Hollywood racism! (more…)