One of the first feminist movies, The Smiling Madame Beudet is the story of an intelligent woman trapped in a loveless marriage. Her husband is used to playing a stupid practical joke in ... See full summary »
The Stoneman family finds its friendship with the Camerons affected by the Civil War, both fighting in opposite armies. The development of the war in their lives plays through to Lincoln's assassination and the birth of the Ku Klux Klan.
Sisif, a railwayman, and his son Elie fall in love with the beautiful Norma (who Sisif rescued from a train crash when a baby and raised as his daughter), with tragic results. Originally ... See full summary »
Gabriel de Gravone
Susie, a plain young country girl, secretly loves a neighbor boy, William. She believes in him and sacrifices much of her own happiness to promote his own ambitions, all without his ... See full summary »
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 <email@example.com>
Lillian Gish first suggested D.W. Griffith film the enormously popular play "The Two Orphans," which had been translated into 40 languages, thinking of her sister Dorothy Gish in the role of Henriette. Interestingly, Griffith cast Dorothy as Louise, the passive blind victim, when it was Lillian who was best known for playing helpless heroines. Most who knew her would attest that Dorothy was the more vivacious and strong willed of the two sisters. Lillian had written of her sister in 1927 "She is laughter, even on the cloudy days of life; nothing bothers her or saddens her or concerns her lastingly." See more »
As Danton with the People's Court pardons races to the guillotine execution site, the dusty street beneath the charging feet of his group's horses shows the tire tracks of the camera car preceding them. See more »
Drunk with their new freedom - the riff-raff of the city dance the Carmagnole - that unexplainable wild expression of the mob madness.
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A masterpiece from one of the great innovators of early cinema
First of all, I find it desperately necessary to remind the viewer of silent movies of the danger of analyzing these pieces under the lens of the modern cinemagoer. The aesthetic values of silent cinema are incommensurable with the values of modern cinema. Aside from the obvious difference that one relies purely on image while the other has the benefit of sound, we must also not forget that the cinema of the silent era is cinema in its infancy, in a constant state of the most early self-discovery (which is not to say that cinema has necessarily "grown up" or "progressed" into our modern era; our cinema today is only different than the cinema of the silent era, neither better nor worse.) Basically, we should check ourselves before we ridicule these films on the basis of irising, masking, et cetera and ESPECIALLY the exaggerated emotion and overblown gesturing of the actors. The conventions of the art of acting have, of course, their basis in that of the theatre, which preceded film, and where emphatic gesturing and stressed emotion was conventional in conveying story even to those seated in the back row.
All editorializing aside, Griffith's _Orphans of the Storm_ is a shining example of the director's masterful grasp of narrative cinema. The story is almost Dickensian in its feel, from its very beginning alternating between no less than five separate subplots, all of which become inextricably intertwined before the backdrop of the larger plot of the impending revolution in France. The acting performances are not, in fact, excessively overplayed, but are actually quite subtle and touching, especially those of the two orphans, the Gish sisters.
The visuals are stunning: the costumes and decor are lush and the recreation of late 18th century Paris is excellent. Most impressive to me is Griffith's expert command of montage, primarily through intercutting, in creating a engrossing story that, while complex in structure, is easily grasped. The film starts out on wobbly legs, but soon breaks into a steady gallop, raging through the glorious revolution to an admittedly predictable, yet satisfying conclusion. A grand achievement for one of the titans of early cinema: I give it a 9/10.
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