Let me tell you, watching this much film is strange, you very quickly notice how repetitive certain techniques are, how music is utilized well or just for filler etc. etc. You very quickly notice films that standout, ones that do not make you think Oh, here we go again. I couldn’t find a good copy of October (1927), and as Eisenstein is thus far one of the few silent film makers worth watching, I didn’t want to spoil that which many claim is his best or most important work. Murnau’s Sunrise (1927), though it technically holds 8th place (ranked) in the list, I found it not at all that great, something which is held in such reverance I feel shouldn’t merely fade into the background of that which surrounds, but it did…and so I have few memories, at least none worth recalling. Seventh Heaven (1927) I was unable to find.
Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927). The version I watched [here] had the New Pollutants soundtrack, which in my opinion is far greater than some grainy classical number. The score by the New Pollutants throws you directly into the acidic hell of the clearly symbolic underclass, proletariat etc., their lives constrained by pipe and machine, their lives literally utilized as fuel for the fire, a fire that heats the bellies and homes of those above. A very clear symbolic message of class struggle in the age of industry. The industrial revolution and industry in general here acting as the ‘villain’, that machinic process which via exhaustion and overwhelming suffocates the energies’ of humanity; industry as the creative end-game of humanities’ soul, agree or disagree this is the message. As the pipes hum and shifts change, the cogs flow into one another seamlessly, a difference only of a linear time. Lives, place and acts all a series of bleak repetitions amongst a vast network of the same, sterilized life. So what is it about Metropolis that makes is so great? Well quite simply it’s everything, there isn’t a part of it (Character, location, theme, acting etc.) that isn’t great, each and every screw and bolt is wound so tight it’s difficult to spot any fault. The concentration usually on this idea of proto-AI or proto-Robotics, or even Transhumanism, or, at a push, Feminine overcoming via the emancipation of the body. Whichever way you wish to play it the discussion of the Maschinenmensch usually holds the fore. Not that it shouldn’t, only it begs the attention of one’s eyes elsewhere, what of the city, what of this…expanse. This glaring testament to Art Deco, this thematic will of the future; this film acting as a lost manifesto of blithered hope, riding a convergent wave to its doomed reality.
And what of these strange houses, overlooked by the centuries, the odd, cult-like elements of Metropolis are what help retain its presence in this contemporary clownworld. Within the alleys, atop the skyscrapers and deep underground here, still exists skulls of old and the knee to the crucifix. Those who will bow to master and ignore the reality. As the living skeleton acts his strike, looking the viewer directly in the eye, we witness a domination away from sci-fi and robotics, away from class struggle, away from the pillars of civilization, and so the film accelerates towards a mass escape from death as the tide rises, the malevolence of all involved froths to the top and the death and scorn is unavoidable no longer, welcome human race to your own demise, one you built, turned on, coaxed forward, encouraged and then, in a fit of narcissistic rage, told to halt.
Sadly, I cannot find a good copy of Abel Gance’s Napoleon (1927), and I have heard great things, this might be a special case wherein in I order a copy. Un Chien Andalou (1928), Dali is an artist I not only dislike, but also distrust, and so this film doesn’t sit right for me. It’s famous for the eye-slice scene alone. The Cameraman and Steamboat Bill, Jr (1928) both Keaton flicks, and that’s all they really are now, flicks…not films. I lose interest so quickly, it may be a little overdramatic to say such a thing, but post-1950 such infantile and excessive humour just doesn’t seem right, and now, both Keaton and Chaplin stand as fragmented comics whose humour rings for another time.
The Docks of New York (1928) The Wind (1928) Storm Over Asia (1928) and The Crowd (1928) are all without accessible good copies, and I refuse to sit through 2 hours of 360p grainy silent film, it simply would not do them justice.