Chronicles the birth of European cinema, from the Lumiere brothers to World War I, and then the first golden age of Swedish cinema, from the formation of Svenska Bio to the departure for Hollywood of Stiller and Sjöström. The French build the first studio, invent the traveling shot, and experiment in sound. Max Linder becomes the first comedic star. The Italians do spectacle and early realism. Germans invent film propaganda and have Lubitsch. The Danish cinema is rich before the war. An affectionate portrait of Swedish cinema appreciates its cinematography, led by Jaenzon, its conversion of novels into film, and the emergence of a production company that owned its own theaters. Written by
Cinema Europe should appeal to anyone interested in film history, especially the silent era. Its goal is to document the birth of cinema in Europe and its development all the way to the early years of the sound film - in just 6 hours! Six hours is way to short for such an endeavor but the filmmakers manage to pack amazing amount of information in to these six hours, so much in fact that one is left with the desire to see it immediately again.
The film is in six parts. The first covering the birth of cinema in Europe, the second one is about the Swedish silent film industry, the third one about the German Masters, the fourth one about France, the fifth one about Britain and the last one about the death of silent cinema and the arrival of sound.
One would expect that the German part would be the best of the six but it was unfortunately one of the least interesting, IMO. This may have something to do with the fact that I knew the German story quite well, but I just felt that it lacked insight and a clear direction. The same goes for the Swedish part. The narrator spends most of the time retelling the plot of the films in question, including their end.
The France and English parts are pure pleasure to watch. They are full of well based social insight and focus more on techniques and experiments than story lines. The British one is admirably honest and at part quite funny.
The transfer of the films they show is exceptionally good and the collections of the shots they gather together here is a goldmine. Many of the films shown from in the documentary are still not available on VHS or DVD.
On the down side though, I felt they often chose wrong scenes from the films they picked, and left out much superior scenes, but such is always a matter of opinion.
Cinema Europe is a true gem which I'm going to revisit again and again in the future. It should be on the shelf of any serious film buff.
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