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Gabriel de Gravone
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Henriette and Louise, a foundling, are raised together as sisters. When Louise goes blind, Henriette swears to take care of her forever. They go to Paris to see if Louise's blindness can be cured, but are separated when an aristocrat lusts after Henriette and abducts her. Only Chevalier de Vaudrey is kind to her, and they fall in love. The French Revolution replaces the corrupt Aristocracy with the equally corrupt Robespierre. De Vaudrey, who has always been good to peasants, is condemned to death for being an aristocrat, and Henriette for harboring him. Will revolutionary hero Danton, the only voice for mercy in the new regime, be able to save them from the guillotine? Written by
John Oswalt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
D.W. Griffith used this movie as a means of commenting, obliquely, on contemporary politics of his time. He drew parallels between the anarchist mobs that overthrew the French aristocrats, and what he says in opening titles to the film are the present American dangers of succumbing to the kind of "anarchy and Bolshevism" he perceived in the recent Russian Revolution. It is a great historical irony that those Bolsheviks Griffith railed against were quite smitten with the director's incomparable ways of generating film tension in crosscutting as well as his cinematic means of conveying good and evil via sophisticated editing and framing techniques. As the father of film syntax Griffith was an enormous influence on the Soviet filmmakers Sergei M. Eisenstein and Vsevolod Pudovkin, who were inspired by many of his films including the anti-Bolshevik Orphans of the Storm (1921). See more »
Early in the Paris scenes there are two bare-chested revolutionaries. One has visible tan lines showing that he had worn a 20s lifeguard-style two-strap bathing suit. See more »
Adolphe D'Ennery's novel was one of those countless melodramatic maudlin stories which were thriving in France of the 19th century. DW Griffith decided to transpose the action just before and after French revolution.The novel was rather reactionary and its historical background was thin and vague.
But Griffith's vision of the French Revolution is naive,to put it mildly.He was not apparently aware that the 1789 events were mainly a bourgeois move,and the poor were only a tool.The dichotomy Good Danton/Wicked Robespierre should make people who are looking for a sort of historical accuracy have a look at Wajda"s "Danton"(with G.Depardieu,in the eighties).
Forget history and you have a two-hour and a half silent movie with never a dull moment.Griffith is a wonderful storyteller,who had a great respect for his audience.Some sequences are still impressive today:the aristocratic orgy,when the Poor are starving at the gates of the palace is far from D'Ennery's timid depiction of the scene in the book;Lillian Gish,a wonderful actress who 'd been part of the cinema till the eighties,is so powerful in her part of the abducted maiden Henriette we can almost hear her when she screams out of despair:"is there a man of honor among you?Louise and the shrew who got her under her thumb begging in front of the cathedral as the snow is falling is a splendid picture,recalling a painter's work;even if Danton's coming to the rescue of a soon-to-be guillotined Henriette is thoroughly implausible,we cannot help but admire the director's maestria.
Few silent movies have stood the test of time as well as this one.
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