Cinema Europe: The Other Hollywood (1995– )
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The biggest reason I wanted to see this is that the two men responsible for the show were Kevin Brownlow and David Gill--two men who are responsible for preserving so much in our film history. In fact, Brownlow just recently received and honorary Oscar for his work--and Gill, sadly, died only a few years after "Cinema Europe" debuted--and did not receive this award. Some other work they've done were the absolutely amazing films on the art and work of Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton and Chaplin--as well as non-comedians D.W. Griffith and Mary Pickford. They have helped our generation remember and celebrate these brilliant early film makers and actors.
"Cinema Europe" is about the earliest days of European film up to about the time of Nazi rule in Germany. So, while the box are says it's about the silent era, episode six ALSO includes the transition to sound and the early sound films. It's narrated by Kenneth Branagh (who did a great job) and has many film clips--almost all of which were nearly pristine. But it's improved more through the use of various interviews made for the film AND which had been done through the years by various film makers who had died well before the series was created. It took a lot of work to assemble all this--that's for sure.
While I adore this series and wish I had my own copy, I won't lie and say it's perfect--even though I gave it a 10 (it is without equal--that's why it merits a 10). The shows often give spoilers, so if you haven't seen a great silent film like "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari", you might not want to as the show tells the surprise ending!! This is not cool. Also, the DVD has no captions of any type--and with some of the thick accents of the people in the show, it would be appreciated--especially with someone like me who is hard of hearing. Still, it's great...see this film.
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.