Berlin, Symphony of a Great City (1927, Germany) – Oh .. my .. God. People, machines, buildings. Yes!
The Lost World (1925, USA) – Stop motion dinosaurs and a man in a monkey suit. Not bad, but typical. However groundbreaking, special effects really do work better with sound, color and CGI. Watched: 15 minutes, then fast forwarded to the dinosaurs.
The Unknown (1927, USA) – Circus artist Joan Crawford is sick of men groping her, and develops a phobia about hands. She finds comfort with a man who pretends to have no arms, but is secretly a thief and a strangler. Deliciously macabre symbolism. Sometimes a cigar really is a penis.
Anthology of Surreal Cinema, Vol 1: Entr’acte (1924, France), La Coquille et le Clergyman (1928, France), Ballet Mecanique (1924, France), Anemic Cinema (1926, France) – Huh. Funny! Brain massage. Watched all of it, but the nice thing about surrealism is that you can take a bathroom break without missing anything.
La Chute de la Maison Usher (1928, France) – Not bad, but I like Roger Corman’s Poe movies better. Watched: 10 minutes.
The Battleship Potemkin (1925, Soviet Union) – Fine film. Made in that very very short period when Bolshevik doctrine held that the state shouldn’t massacre citizens for no good reason.
That’s all the silent movies for now. I have learned that I hate silent comedies, and that all silent movies should be set to Shostakovich.
The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926, Germany) – Arabian Nights-based fairy tale. Animated with silhouettes, which looks amazing. Look! Watched it all.
The Bat (1926, USA) – Jewel thief dressed as a bat (if a bat looked like a mouse) baffles the police. Reminds me of a kid telling a story with action figures. Watched: 10 minutes.
Ménilmontant (1926, France) – Drama from the bleak and menacing school of film-making. Life in Paris really, really sucks. Watched it all, not because I liked it, but because it’s compelling and doesn’t feel old.
The Blue Bird (1918, USA) – Probably a morality tale. There’s a bird of happiness which only some people can see, and then there’s a rich family and a poor family and one that is normal. They all live on the same street, just waiting to bump into each other for valuable life lesson purposes. Watched: 11 minutes. (Having checked IMDB, I see there’s also a fairy involved.)
Oktyabr (1928, Soviet Union) – Mm .. Soviet propaganda, where hysterical mobs of rich ladies beat up workers in the streets. Fairly truthful account, in the sense that, yes, the October revolution took place in October. (Well, it was actually November). The version I saw was with sound effects, which is silly, but it was set to music by Shostakovich, whose ’1917′ symphony is my favourite of the few positive outcomes of communism. Watched it all, but it lacks focus.
Shoulder Arms (1918) – In the words of Captain Edmund Blackadder, Charlie Chaplin’s films are “about as funny as getting an arrow through the neck and discovering there’s a gas bill tied to it”. Now I see what he meant, and – dear God – there’s another one coming up. Watched: 18 minutes.
The Pilgrim (1923) – In the words of Private Baldrick, a few seconds later, Charlie Chaplin is “as funny as a vegetable that’s grown into a rude and amusing shape”. Mm .. Blackadder. Now where was I? Oh yes. Watched: 5 minutes.
Safety Last (1923) – On the bright side: Harold Lloyd is funnier than Chaplin, and I did like this movie the first time I saw it. Watched: 40 minutes.
Days of Youth (1929, Japan) – I .. think this is supposed to be funny. I arrive at this conclusion by a process of elimination: It clearly isn’t anything else, so it must be comedy. Watched: 9 minutes.
The Freshman (1925) – Lloyd again. I wish I was watching Horse Feathers. Watched: 8 minutes.
For Heaven’s Sake (1926) – Ha ha, Harold Lloyd’s black driver is stupid! I really should be revisiting the Marx Brothers soon. Watched: 8 minutes.
Dr Pyckle and Mr Pride (1925) – Laurel without Hardy. At last a funny (but short) comedy. Mr Hyde of Stevenson’s novel is an evil and violent man. Mr Pride steals ice cream from children and plays jokes on old ladies. Watched: All of it. All 20 minutes of it.
It’s a shame that silent movies died. The best of them achieved things that have never been possible in talking movies. In this movie marathon, I’ve dug up a whole bunch of silent movies, most of which I know little about.
Häxan (1922, Denmark) – Part slideshow presentation, part staged documentary about witchcraft beliefs and witch trials. Uses scorn and comic depictions of Satan to expose the foolish ways of the olden days, (why, they even slept naked!) Rationalistic with an aggressive self confidence that will appeal to and embarass modern skeptics. Leans towards exploitation. Watched: All of it.
Our Hospitality (1923, USA) – Buster Keaton comedy with such failed gags as a street with a traffic constable but hardly any traffic(!), and a train where the roof is so low that a gentleman cannot wear a top hat(!!) Watched: 17 minutes.
The Kid (1921, USA) – Tramp Chaplin adopts an abandoned child. The discovery that comedies should be funny must have come later in the decade. Watched: 23 minutes.
Dr. Mabuse (1922, Germany) – Ambitious, unfocused, and very, very long story about stock fraud and gambling. Watched: 25 minutes, out of 4 hours!
Strike (1925, Soviet Union) – Surprisingly funny for a movie that encourages you to lynch capitalists. Watched: All of it.
Glomdalsbruden (1926, Norway) – Love story about a forced marriage in rural Norway. It’s interesting how it’s the simple stories that benefit most from silence. Basic emotions shine in a way they rarely do in talkies. Watched: All of it.