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The four feature-length films I've seen by Lois Weber are different in many and important ways. They're all similar, however, in that they deliver a message. This time it's on marital manners and female behaviour. I consider her messages an obstacle, which she has greatly overcome in two of the films I've seen: this and "Hypocrites" (1915).
Weber wants us to contrast the two couples--and to learn from that, I suppose. The couples form a doppelgänger theme. Weber makes this clear via reflections: reflections from mirrors, windows and water. Weber uses reflections slyly throughout the film. They demonstrate the doppelgänger theme with the doubled images, and they remind us to also reflect upon the messages, which is the purpose of the whole construction. It's a clever self-reference, and I find it wholly more interesting than the film's messages. Mirrors also represent vanity: the vanity common of women, especially of Mrs. Daly; additionally, they reflect the self-consciousness--the poor self-image of Mrs. Graham.
Weber was an intelligent filmmaker; "Too Wise Wives" is also well made. There isn't much camera movement, but the shots are hardly static. The shot succession is quick enough, and the continuity editing is apt, with scene dissection between long shots and closer looks. A shot of a sunset stands out as pictorially lovely. The sets and, more importantly, the use of them are the standout, though.
The sets are rich looking--very upscale. William Carr furnishes them nicely. Weber and cinematographer William C. Foster use the sets effectively, first, by cutting between close shots and long shots, which take in the scenes more fully. Second, there are many shots through doorways and looking through doorways, leading one to think there's a point to that similar to the use of reflections. The low-angle shots revealing ceilings are the best, though. A willingness to show ceilings has been rare in film history. It also adds some credibility of honesty to the picture.
Far from being static, the film demonstrates a good use of architecture, and the filmmakers position the camera rather than the actors. For me, Calhern stands out--he has a memorable, handsome face. It's no wonder he would become a fine character actor. Lastly, the intertitles, while perhaps being too many, with too much commentary and messages, are notable for the simultaneous moving images alongside some of them. "Too Wise Wives" is blunt in its lecturing, but subtle in its artistry.
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