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It is 1830 in Paris and the rent is due, but the money is not there. An article here, a painting there and a monkey with a cup gives them enough money for the rent, but not for food. Fortunately, Musette from downstairs has enough food for everyone including Mimi - the poor little waif from next door who Rodolphe has met. But Count Paul also has his lusting eye on Mimi and uses her embroidery to get close to her. Rodolphe and Mimi fall in love and Mimi works endlessly to support Rodolphe who is writing his play with a new found passion. He does not know that he has been discharged from writing for 'Dog and Cat Fanciers'. Mimi wants to get his play produced and Count Paul offers to help, but there is a terrible fight when Rodolphe thinks that Mimi is faithless to him with Count Paul. After the fight, he seeks out a doctor as she is sick, but she has left when Rodolphe returns and will stay away until his play is finished.Written by
Tony Fontana <email@example.com>
I have seen hundreds of silent films by now, but I have never, ever yet seen a film in which pantomime was so wildly and dramatically used consistently throughout the entire story by the actors, particularly by John Gilbert. I hate to say it, but here as Rudolphe, although he was his usual fantastically handsome self, he reminds me most of Gene Kelly's antics in the silent film spoof musical "Singin' in the Rain." The film required more subtlety from Mr. Gilbert here, and then I think it would have been a genuine classic.
That said, there are moments where his pantomime is perfectly poignant, more genteel, and realistic. The romp through the woods on a spring day, where Mimi (Gish) confesses to Rudolphe (Gilbert) that she loves him, is sublime and unforgettable. He places his hand gently on his heart in surprise, and then kisses Mimi's golden ringlets first, before he kisses her face. A gesture so nineteenth century! John Gilbert certainly knew his history and researched his roles very well.
Lillian Gish is always a joy to watch, and her performance as Mimi is exceptional. Her death scene was very moving. If you are a fan of John Gilbert or Lillian Gish, don't miss La Boheme. TCM has a wonderful video clip from the film on its website. Just use their search engine to find it.
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