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"The Music of Light" is my favorite episode of Cinema Europe. When I first saw it, I had seen The Passion of Joan of Arc, Napolean, Les Vampire, "Un Chien Andalou," and "A Trip to the Moon." I had heard that Jean Renoir had made silent films, but I had not watched them. That was my knowledge of silent French cinema. Because of that first viewing, I went on to watch several films that were featured in the episode, maybe none more important than La Roue.
A second viewing proves that I have not exhausted all the great ones: a version of Les Miserables that was supposed to have been shot entirely in the real locations mentioned in the novel (only about half was though); an adaptation of Joan of Arc's story shot at the same time as the Dreyer film; Casanova, with beautiful, stenciled color; La Belle Nivernaise, which is said to have influenced Jean Vigo's L'Atalante.
Besides the film recommendations, "The Music of Light" offers fascinating insight. The examples of editing in Abel Gance's La Roue and Napoleon are astounding for those of us who learned about montage only through Russian silent cinema. In addition, the "making of" documentary so prevalent as extras on DVDs began in French silent cinema with a film about the making of the film L'Argent. And, I cursed aloud when I learned of the tragically lost To Build a Fire, the first feature film to be shot in scope.
"The Music of Light" should be shown in film history classes. Come to think of it, all of Cinema Europe should be shown.
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