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The Story of Film: An Odyssey 'The Golden Age of World Cinema' (2011)
*** 1/2 (out of 4)
The third, and so far best entry in the series starts off talking about how Hollywood was the #1 goal for so many people and it was the greatest business of its type. While this was going on, overseas various foreign directors were turning out some of the greatest films in history. These include THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, METROPOLIS as well as films from the likes of Ozu, Lubitch and Bunuel. Unlike the first two episodes, this one here pretty much doesn't jump around and instead it tells a pretty straight story of these foreign pioneers and the various things they did to break away from the Hollywood mode and actually deliver some of the greatest films ever made. We get clips from the various films but we also learn about what the directors did in their careers and how their influences were felt across the globe and especially in Hollywood. The German Expressionism is looked at closely as well is the type of comedy one could get away with overseas whereas in Hollywood you had some moral police. The shorts of Luis Bunuel also get some nice attention to various details in them.
This episode brings us to the worldwide innovators and rebels of the
1920s. We have Ernst Lubitsch, who was mocking and subversive -- Billy
Wilder later had a sign reading "How would Lubitsch do it?" (Wilder
seems to have been influenced by everyone -- Chaplin, Hawks,
Lubitsch...) Abel Gance and impressionism was the rage in France, which
in turn influenced Russian cinema.
Perhaps the most well-known movement was that of German expressionism -- Robert Wiene's "Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" allegedly being a metaphor for the control of the German people by the German state. It is noted for the painting of shadows and stark angles. Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" and even Alfred Hitchcock's "Lodger" came from this. Most interestingly rising from German expressionism, perhaps, is "The Page of Madness", a Japanese film (what Cousins calls the second great Japanese film after "Souls on the Road", both of which are largely unknown).
This time period brought us F. W. Murnau, one of the greatest directors of all time and "Sunrise" is considered one of the best films of all time. (Working with him and Lang, but not mentioned here, was cinematography Karl Freund.) Walter Ruttmann was a rebel with animation, painting on glass. Rene Clair brought out Dada on film. Dali brought the drooping eyes to Alfred Hitchcock's "Spellbound". nd of course, with Luis Bunuel, we received the surreal gems "Un Chien Andalou" and "Age D'Or".
Russia brought Vertov and Eisenstein (a Jewish, bisexual, Christian, Marxist engineer), who influenced Chaplin and Disney. Oddly, the stairs of "Battleship Potemkin" influenced DePalma's "Untouchables", which in turn were parodied by "Naked Gun".
Ozu in Japan placed his camera different, lowering where people were shot (feet or knees up rather than hips up). While Hollywood in the 1920s was huge, this episode shows us that the rest of the world was busy creating and inventing, too -- in some ways beating the Americans to the punch.
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