The Pre-1920s List (Decade Project Vol. 4)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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swo17
Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:25 am
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Re: Pre-1920s List Discussion and Suggestions

#301 Post by swo17 » Mon Oct 16, 2017 3:46 pm

Doesn't feel too overtly racist
Pull quote

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matrixschmatrix
Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 11:26 pm

Re: Pre-1920s List Discussion and Suggestions

#302 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Oct 16, 2017 3:51 pm

Haha in this era you take what you can get

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zedz
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:24 pm

Re: Pre-1920s List Discussion and Suggestions

#303 Post by zedz » Mon Oct 16, 2017 3:59 pm

swo17 wrote:I actually just watched Love and Journalism last night and am toying with making room for it. The acting and tone feel so much more advanced (along the lines of like a '30s Lubitsch film) than its release year would indicate. It's available through backchannels.

As for the M&K film, when I brought it up earlier, there seemed to be some question as to that trippy version's authenticity.
Oh, I'm sure it didn't look like that originally, but that's how I saw it and that's what I'm voting for. (Though I also think it's an especially evocative and aesthetically pleasing phantom ride film even without the patina of wooziness and would probably rank it somewhere on my list even if it were smooth as butter.)

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matrixschmatrix
Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 11:26 pm

Re: Pre-1920s List Discussion and Suggestions

#304 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Oct 16, 2017 5:13 pm

Shrew wrote: The Hayseed—This was the… fourth or fifth film I’ve watched for this project with a joke about eating green onions. Otherwise, this is a so-so outing with some fun bits and some dull ones. But man, why were the 1910s so down on onions (was it immigrants? It was immigrants, wasn’t it?).
I just caught this, and it's something I'd noticed as well- there's a lengthy joke about them being one of the brutal-on-the-stomach foods Fairbanks is forced to eat in When the Clouds Roll By, and business with Chaplin being forced to deal with a man eating onions at him in Behind the Screen. Both are those weird, thin onions, too.

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the preacher
Joined: Thu Nov 25, 2010 12:07 pm
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Re: Pre-1920s List Discussion and Suggestions

#305 Post by the preacher » Tue Oct 17, 2017 11:32 am

17+1 (my #51, Barrabas) orphans here! :P

Okay, no subs for El golfo, I know, but Sjöström or DeMille are too big to be dismissed, it's a crime! Anyway, strong recommendations are:

Maudite soit la guerre (1914, Alfred Machin). Greatest Belgian silent, available (English subbed) on vimeo.

L'assommoir (1908, Albert Capellani). A Pierre Rissient's favorite. Maybe you have seen and liked the Capellani's adaptation of Zola Germinal, well, this is earlier, shorter and equally stunning.

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Minkin
Joined: Thu Aug 06, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Pre-1920s List Discussion and Suggestions

#306 Post by Minkin » Tue Oct 17, 2017 8:20 pm

So wait, this isn't like the All-Time list redux - where the orphans are removed, and we just vote on the films remaining?

If I get it right, we now get to try to convince someone else to drop their beloved orphans, and instead vote for ours during this week? I wonder if anyone will end up with new orphans as a result of this second round...

I have 21+ (still checking through the list) orphans! I'll post some defenses in a little bit. I have several that I can probably part with, if anyone wants to make some backroom deals to save a few of mine :P

Looks like there was alot of vote splitting here - with Chaplin, Melies, Lumiere, Buster Keaton, etc. Did any Segundo de Chomón titles end up not as orphans? Or are people not as familiar with him? I thought the Electric Hotel was a shoe-in.

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matrixschmatrix
Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 11:26 pm

Re: Pre-1920s List Discussion and Suggestions

#307 Post by matrixschmatrix » Tue Oct 17, 2017 8:36 pm

I've got three I'm willing to drop, but I do like the sound of that other way of dealing with orphans. If we're sticking with this method, Minkin, I'll probably at least give a second to Girls Taking Time Checks, which just narrowly missed my list (I don't think I include any actualities) and has a sly joy hiding in it- I'm always delighted to see the shy delight that pops out of people of this era realizing they're on film, which gives one the impression that they really have no idea of how people are supposed to behave on film- the Mitchell and Kenyon short Living in Wigan gives me the same feeling, but that isn't an orphan and also doesn't end with an oddly surreal punchline.

I find that counting orphans always makes me feel like I've messed up- too many, and I feel like I haven't stood up for my favorites. Too few, and it feels like I just voted for the mainstream choices. I think this is the fewest I've ever had, though.

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zedz
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:24 pm

Re: Pre-1920s List Discussion and Suggestions

#308 Post by zedz » Tue Oct 17, 2017 9:55 pm

Minkin wrote:So wait, this isn't like the All-Time list redux - where the orphans are removed, and we just vote on the films remaining?

If I get it right, we now get to try to convince someone else to drop their beloved orphans, and instead vote for ours during this week? I wonder if anyone will end up with new orphans as a result of this second round...
I prefer to think of it as a black market organ trading swap meet, but sure.

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swo17
Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:25 am
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Re: Pre-1920s List Discussion and Suggestions

#309 Post by swo17 » Tue Oct 17, 2017 10:14 pm

Well no, the idea is that maybe you see some more films that you genuinely like enough to make room for them on your list. The same way you would if you thought you had a solid top 50 a week ago but then saw something so great you had to knock something off to make room for it. I'd personally be more likely to remove a behemoth that I'm less enthusiastic about than an orphan, but you can do it however you like. Or, if you legitimately don't see anything new this week to rival your top 50, then do nothing. Just please, no backroom deals.

I'll personally be making room for The War and Dream of Momi (which was flagged up in the "New Films" list) which combines an epic Pastrone war film with innovative stop-motion animation courtesy of Segundo de Chomón. There's an animated sky battle toward the end that's as exciting as anything in Wellman's Wings. Not sure just yet what it will take the place of--The Cameraman's Revenge? The animation is just as accomplished here but it takes its story further.

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knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Pre-1920s List Discussion and Suggestions

#310 Post by knives » Tue Oct 17, 2017 10:27 pm

While that warms the cockles of my heart to hear I really hope it doesn't come at the cost of more animation.

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swo17
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Re: Pre-1920s List Discussion and Suggestions

#311 Post by swo17 » Tue Oct 17, 2017 11:40 pm

I received another list today. Add these to the list of orphans:

The Birth of a Flower (Percy Smith, 1910) 15
Scene from Elevator Ascending Eiffel Tower (James White, 1900) 17
Grandma's Reading Glass (G.A. Smith, 1900) 24
The Battle of the Somme (Geoffrey Malins, 1916) 27
Let Me Dream Again (G.A. Smith, 1900) 29
Story of a Crime (Ferdinand Zecca, 1901) 35
Leaving Jerusalem by Railway (Alexandre Promio, 1897) 37
The Magic Sword (Walter Booth, 1901) 39
Panorama of Eiffel Tower (James White, 1900) 46
A Fool There Was (Frank Powell, 1915) 50

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Minkin
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Re: Pre-1920s List Discussion and Suggestions

#312 Post by Minkin » Tue Oct 17, 2017 11:54 pm

swo17 wrote:I received another list today. Add these to the list of orphans:

The Birth of a Flower (Percy Smith, 1910) 15
Scene from Elevator Ascending Eiffel Tower (James White, 1900) 17
Grandma's Reading Glass (G.A. Smith, 1900) 24
The Battle of the Somme (Geoffrey Malins, 1916) 27
Let Me Dream Again (G.A. Smith, 1900) 29
Story of a Crime (Ferdinand Zecca, 1901) 35
Leaving Jerusalem by Railway (Alexandre Promio, 1897) 37
The Magic Sword (Walter Booth, 1901) 39
Panorama of Eiffel Tower (James White, 1900) 46
A Fool There Was (Frank Powell, 1915) 50
I assume the new list didn't rescue any orphans in the process?

And fine then, I'll try to refrain from backroom deals, but will make a frontroom deal: If anyone has any titles they desperately want rescued, I'll focus on watching those (preferably a short, as I'm rather backlogged with my own October horror project) - and in the process I might ask them to give another watch (or watch for the first time a few that I'll highlight in a still forthcoming post - probably Stella Maris, Kiss in the Tunnel, Girls Taking Time Checks, etc - but more on these later).

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swo17
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Re: Pre-1920s List Discussion and Suggestions

#313 Post by swo17 » Wed Oct 18, 2017 12:01 am

It did rescue several orphans, but I'll wait to reveal which ones.

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TMDaines
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Re: Pre-1920s List Discussion and Suggestions

#314 Post by TMDaines » Wed Oct 18, 2017 5:48 am

I’m just going to use the week to watch more Chaplin, Italian silents and other things that catch my fancy.

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Satori
Joined: Sun May 09, 2010 10:32 am

Re: Pre-1920s List Discussion and Suggestions

#315 Post by Satori » Wed Oct 18, 2017 6:18 am

I hope this is okay, but I wanted to announce a couple of orphan rescues to avoid any Gift of the Magi-style situations. Whoever voted for Les Chiens savants and Where Are My Children? in their respective top 10s, I've got you.

I've been on a bit of a Pickford binge this week, so I'll also make sure to rewatch the two Frances Marion/ Marshall Neilan orphans and include at least one of them as well.

Quick question: if we drop one of our orphans in our revised list, it will no longer appear on the official orphan list at the end, right? So if I want to preserve, say, Ladies' Skirts Nailed to a Fence for posterity but don't think that I could possibly make an argument that would convince anyone else to vote for it, I would need to keep it on my revised list?

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Minkin
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Re: Pre-1920s List Discussion and Suggestions

#316 Post by Minkin » Wed Oct 18, 2017 8:28 am

Swo, are the orphans at least removed from the orphans list? I'd like to know how many / which I might need to replace :P
Satori wrote:Quick question: if we drop one of our orphans in our revised list, it will no longer appear on the official orphan list at the end, right? So if I want to preserve, say, Ladies' Skirts Nailed to a Fence for posterity but don't think that I could possibly make an argument that would convince anyone else to vote for it, I would need to keep it on my revised list?
Don't remove it, as I had to see this based on the title alone. Well that was hilariously bizarre, thanks for bringing it to my attention, it might be saved from the orphanage.

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swo17
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Re: Pre-1920s List Discussion and Suggestions

#317 Post by swo17 » Wed Oct 18, 2017 10:21 am

Consider your first list a rough draft. If you still think Ladies' Skirts is one of the top 50 films from this period by the end of the week, then you should keep it on your list. Please don't remove films from your list just because you don't think anyone else will be voting for them.

The purpose of this second round isn't to reconfigure the results so much as it is to give everyone more of an opportunity to actually watch other people's orphans (or anything else they want to fit in). Usually I publish the orphan results along with everything else and start the next round of voting, then people come out and say "I wish you guys would have watched X, Y, and Z" but by then everyone's already moved on. Maybe your initial list was strong enough that watching additional films doesn't change your mind about anything. But if you do find anything else that you want to make room for, you have the opportunity to do so.

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Satori
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Re: Pre-1920s List Discussion and Suggestions

#318 Post by Satori » Wed Oct 18, 2017 11:25 am

Okay, that makes sense. I think my problem is that, beyond my top 25 or so, my list choices are pretty arbitrary (and this holds for all the lists I've participated in, not just this one). For the bottom half of my list, there is easily another 30+ that I like just as much. It was even worse for this list since I reserved some spots for 1890s-early '00s films which I have no earthly idea how to rank.

I would never swap out a movie I liked for one I didn't like as much, but if I can swap out a movie I like for another I like about the same that someone else has on their list (especially if its high on their list), then it makes sense to me to do so.

I apologize if it sounded like I was trying to game the system. My actual problem is that I am indecisive and wishy-washy about ranking films that I think are "good" but not quite "great."

But I'll be keeping Ladies' Skirts Nailed to a Fence (And thanks Minkin for giving it a whirl!)

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swo17
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Re: Pre-1920s List Discussion and Suggestions

#319 Post by swo17 » Wed Oct 18, 2017 11:55 am

The problem with trying to game the results is that you don't know what you're hurting. In taking a film off your list, you could be kicking it out of the #1 position, out of the top 10, out of the top 100, off the also-ran list, or off the orphan list. Other people's votes could be changing as well, so you can't necessarily count on your behavior to have the effect that you intend. That's why it's best to just go with your gut, and if a particular film gets slighted as a result, you can legitimately say that you didn't like that one as much as the others you voted for.

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theflirtydozen
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Re: Pre-1920s List Discussion and Suggestions

#320 Post by theflirtydozen » Wed Oct 18, 2017 7:11 pm

Orphan recommendations:
All of these are short, so they should work well for your consideration...

Repression of the Macedonian People (Janaki and Milton Manaki, 1905)
This is the only Manaki Bros. orphan and I'm assuming not too many if any made it through otherwise. I can heartily recommend that if you can find their work you should dive in as their merit extends beyond just their status as the first filmmakers of the Balkans. This particular actuality immerses you immediately in some dark sociopolitical atmosphere from beginning-of-the-century Macedonia. When watching this with many of their other films, it's as if someone dropped a nightmare right in the middle of the festive rural scenes, especially with the jittery camerawork. Not sure if that camerawork is deliberate, just how it survived, or out of necessarily quick filming as the camera is given the staredown by soldiers guarding the hanged bodies. I was still able to appreciate this completely without context but hoping someone else could better put this in perspective. You can actually view this with Turkish(?) commentary here from 7'00"-8'30" (website doesn't seem too sketchy, are links like this ok, mods?) along with other Manaki works. Warning that it contains actual dead bodies, if you aren't currently in the mood for that. I think all their surviving/most important work is available on backchannels.

Mr. Edison at Work in His Chemical Laboratory (James White, 1897)
Like many other shorts from this period, exactly what the title says. This one might be particularly personal since I played Thomas Edison in a school production in 4th grade and also have spent many hours in laboratories :P . Quaint and endearing in its set design and direction but I can certainly see why Edison could rub people the wrong way.

Alice Guy tourne une phonoscène (Alice Guy-Blaché, 1907)
I've always enjoyed behind the scenes features since you can see the process that created a favorite film and how a particular filmmaker works. Here, Alice Guy-Blaché directs a phonoscene of young women dancing. We see the scene being organized before filming and a nearly silhouetted Guy-Blaché splitting her attention between the phonoscene and the actuality being filmed behind her of her direction. Really makes you appreciate how much work it took to produce a 30 second clip back then, especially seeing her switch between checking on the camera and sound recording! Not sure if the phonoscene she's seen directing survives...

Autruches/Promenade of Ostriches (Louis & Auguste Lumière, 1896)
Filmed in the Paris botanical gardens, the title is deceptive as there's only one ostrich which leads a runaway and come to life carousel procession full of children and fashionable folk. A sheer delight and that's all there is to it.

Métamorphoses (Segundo de Chomón, 1912)
The alchemical destructive and creative forces of fire are beautifully animated here as a vase is presented, spontaneously combusts and reforms as new shapes, sequentially. The figures dance and celebrate their newfound life before catching fire again and inevitably transforming once more, eventually ending the cycle with the vase.

New votes recommendations:

Wintergartenprogramm (Max Skladanowsky, 1895)
This might be benefiting from being a compilation of works, many of which comprise a "greatest hits" of the types of short films being produced in this era. It makes use of the new film medium as it's full of kinetic energy: children skip, bars are swung on, balls are juggled, and Sandow makes an appearance in a wrestling match. Merry jigs are had and a serpentine dance is thrown in for good measure. In what I believe is a fairly unique segment to the time period, a man boxes a kangaroo. There's also an "acrobatic potpourri" I'll leave you to check out for yourself!

The Boxing Cats (Prof. Welton's) (William Dickson & William Heise, 1894)
Once again, you see exactly what the title describes. I can't help but wonder if this was Prof. Welton's pastime before the movie camera was invented or if this was an early burst of creativity specifically for film.

Would also like to say that I greatly enjoyed Filibus and Die Pest in Florenz and they likely won't drop from high in my list in this second round. Thanks to those who initially recommended them!

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TMDaines
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Re: Pre-1920s List Discussion and Suggestions

#321 Post by TMDaines » Fri Oct 20, 2017 7:20 am

I had a real binge yesterday and planning on watching a lot more this weekend too. J’accuse was up yesterday and this is a helluva film. Techinically very proficient, so much so that the decades structure feels much more abitrary here than it does in future years. Maybe pre-1915 and 1915-1929 would be fairer, because the films of the 1910s comfortably compete with the some of the silent masterpieces of the 1920s and its hard to compare curiosities from earlier on when cinema was so much more technically limited.

Finally finished with the Chaplin Essanay titles and they are a step up from the Keystone works collectively, with a far more nuanced Tramp character and touches of Chaplin’s refined nuances that would propagate through his later features. The Bank is comfortably is best work of this period and is similar to my second favourite of these earlier years, the Keystone The New Janitor, where they both feature Chaplin playing a humble hero in the workplace. You can see a lot of the future Tramp in these two.

On the whole, the Essanay films are worth watching collectively, although there’s still a little too much of people running and falling in parks, and by the sea. Unless, you have a desperate want to watch all of Chaplin, I’d cherrypick that series and highlight Janitor, Knockout and Cabaret. I’d going to try and watch much of the Mutuals before submitting.

Disapppointing that Maciste alpino is an orphan. This is a fun action film set in the Northern Italian mountains and is well worth a watch. I can share a compressed version in HD this weekend if anyone wants it on Dropbox. It’s never been released despite being restored for several years, which is a damn shame.

Un amore selvaggio and Il fascino della violenza are two good shorts on the Bologna DVD of Assunta spina. Unfortunately, they only have Dutch intertitles but they mean that disc is great value with three interesting works. Someone elsewhere summarised Selvaggio as follows:
More to my taste is Un Amore Selvaggio (Italy 1912), part of the festival’s Italy: Restrospect and Discovery strand. This is a hoot. It stars what are clearly a stage duo, bringing their larger-than-life stage personas to the screen. The duo are brother and sister Luisella and Raffaele Viviani, Neapolitan stage actors who specialise in native dramas of grimy realism and high passion, usally directed by Raffaele. It is the only one of their three films to survive. Here they play a Sicilian brother and sister in a drama of intense revenge, where she asks her brother to kill a farm owner
SpoilerShow
. Never have eyes rolled so much, arms waved so passionately, nor hair been pulled back so constantly. Yet it is not comical; rather it jolts the audience out of complacency, showing an edgier form of early cinema than we usually experience out of the comparatively milder stage traditions of northern Europe and America. When Raffaele looks like he wants to fight, he sems more than ready to deal in real blows; when Luisella wants you killed, the audience starts worrying for you.
Oh, finally, people don’t like the 1916 Hoffmanns Erzählungen? The print that I believe I watched is on Youtube and is mute. If you like those gothic, haunting German films of the time - Der Student von Prag, Die Pest in Florenz, Der müde Tod, etc. - then this is another excellent example.

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Minkin
Joined: Thu Aug 06, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Pre-1920s List Discussion and Suggestions

#322 Post by Minkin » Fri Oct 20, 2017 10:17 am

Since this round 2 is almost over, I'll quickly put in a word for a few shorts that you can watch very quickly and make up your own mind:

The Kiss in the Tunnel (1899, George Albert Smith)
This was a wonderful last minute discovery. It plays in three parts: two actuality film segments and then a stage scene. We get the bookends of the train entering and then leaving the tunnel. In the middle we find the proper Victorian couple who, in the cover of train darkness (which could've been been depicted better) sneak in a few pecks and a kiss, before quickly returning to their periodicals and ignoring any outward affection towards each other. Its simple but I found the critique of Victorian morals to be the most interesting aspect. Fun little short.

Le cochon danseur – The Dancing Pig (1907)
Alright, this one is just odd: a girl dancing alongside someone in a pig costume that's far too intricate for its time (the ending is also terrifying). Perhaps I'm just too enthralled with the uptempo music that accompanies this particular upload, but its just such a great curio.

La lune à un mètre (1898, Georges Méliès)
Deserves a list placement just for that crazy moon prop with its big flapping mouth puking out two creepy kids, only for the astronomer to pick up the kid and lob it back in!

La maison ensorcelée (1908, Segundo de Chomón)
El hotel eléctrico (1908, Segundo de Chomón)
Is Segundo de Chomon not as popular, or just off people's radars? These are both fantastic and he really pioneered stop-motion (here it all interacts with live actors). The random strange flourishes really add to the madness as well (like the house turning into a face for a few frames).

Explosion of a Motor Car (1900, Cecil M. Hepworth)
Worth it just to see body parts raining down from the sky, gruesome.

I was going to highlight Pan-American Exposition by Night (1901, Edwin S. Porter), but upon watching Grand Display of Brock's Fireworks (G.A. Smith, 1904), I see that this latter film did the same concept far superior. So I'll likely remove Porter's film in favor of Smith's.

Also thanks to theflirtydozen for rescuing Wintergartenprogramm + Boxing Cats; I'll echo their comments. Vote for them too, especially if you can't get enough boxing animal footage! :P

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Tommaso
Joined: Fri May 19, 2006 10:09 am

Re: Pre-1920s List Discussion and Suggestions

#323 Post by Tommaso » Fri Oct 20, 2017 3:07 pm

TMDaines wrote: Oh, finally, people don’t like the 1916 Hoffmanns Erzählungen? The print that I believe I watched is on Youtube and is mute. If you like those gothic, haunting German films of the time - Der Student von Prag, Die Pest in Florenz, Der müde Tod, etc. - then this is another excellent example.
Thanks for bringing Hoffmann to my attention again. I think I last watched it about seven years ago. Having rewatched it now, I agree that it easily fits into the line of films you mention, but somehow it's not quite on the same level. There is a certain stageyness in terms of set design (for instance the interiors in the prologue, when Hoffmann first meets Dapertutto) that looks a lot like something that could have been made ten years earlier. And there's the sort of theatricality to much of the acting which is popularly seen as a a characteristic of silent film acting, when more often than not it isn't. But in this film it is. I would also say that in some shots the camera set-up shows a certain 'gothic sensitivity', but then other set-ups feel much more conventional.

I clearly like Hoffmann, but still I can't find room for it on my list (with which I'm quite happy although I see quite a few films currently orphaned). The film simply never manages to captivate me nearly as much as Der Student von Prag and Die Pest in Florenz do by going from one visual flourish to the next almost scene by scene, and having a far stronger 'poetical', immersive quality. To a somewhat lesser degree, Oswald's Unheimliche Geschichten from 1919 is also superior in my view. In its episodic form it's not dissimilar to Hoffmann, but the three years of difference show Oswald as a much more accomplished filmmaker where most things go right which didn't fully work in the earlier film. I voted for it, and I'm glad to see it's not an orphan.

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TMDaines
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Re: Pre-1920s List Discussion and Suggestions

#324 Post by TMDaines » Fri Oct 20, 2017 6:51 pm

I’ve not watched that one yet and haven’t because I want to buy the Filmjuwelen disc.

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swo17
Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:25 am
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Re: Pre-1920s List Discussion and Suggestions

#325 Post by swo17 » Sun Oct 22, 2017 7:50 pm

I've gotten a few list revisions in, and yes, some orphans have been rescued. As a reminder, I will continue to accept list revisions up until I wake up first thing tomorrow morning.

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