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"The End of an Era" focuses on the coming of sound and how it changed the cinema. This episode makes the familiar case that the transition caused tragedy and a loss of quality for several years. We get various horror stories about the advent of sound. Actors lost jobs because they did not have the right voice. One actress killed herself. Theater musicians were panhandling in the street. In Germany, Jewish actors were blacklisted. In other words, the early 1930's were a bad time in film history.
From my minimal knowledge, all of that is true as whole, but "End of an Era" hedges its argument by excluding some brilliant films made in the transitional period. Dreyer's Vampyr, Bunuel's L'age d'Or, Cocteau's Blood of a Poet, and Murnau's Sunrise (admittedly filmed in America) are all ignored. To be fair, "End of an Era" does include clips from Le Million, A Nous La Liberte, Blackmail, Blue Angel, and two other German films that I need to seek out: Kameradschaft and The Blue Light. The episode does acknowledge that some good films were being made in Europe at this time, but that only minimally lightens the mood of doom and gloom. "End of an Era" is a fitting conclusion to the series, if a downer after the highs of "The Unchained Camera" and "The Music of Light." Overall, I had a wonderful time re-visiting this series. Cinema Europe belongs in the library of every film buff.
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