Author Topic: ProperCharlie does Brackets: 1910  (Read 1470 times)

ProperCharlie

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ProperCharlie does Brackets: 1910
« on: October 18, 2017, 02:56:22 AM »
1910: The Bracket




I am not the most prolific of posters.  Not only on this message-board, but on the Internet as a whole.  I am not a natural sharer.  This has its advantages, but then I do like to watch films and post reviews, and I don't do enough of it for my own liking.  I need something to overcome my natural reticence, get me watching things and posting.  What better than a highly structured and needlessly over-complicated marathon?

Looking to indulge my love of brackets aand give myself a bit of a film education at the same time, I've dreamed up the idea of running a bracket to decide what films to watch.  Not to rank them.  Just which order to watch them in.  If I chose a given year, I can go really deep into the films that were released, and for each match up look at reviews, synopses and just general descriptions to pick and choose what appeals.  Hopefully I can find some little known gems from the depths, discover some new guilty pleasures as well as finally watching those films I really should have gotten around to by now.  Once the bracket is run, I can go through my choices systematically and write them up.

I'm starting with 1910.  There are several reasons for this.  First, Letterboxd lists only 263 films from this year.  There were obviously a lot more films made and realeased then (IMDb has over 6000 in its database), but of course, most films of that era did not survive.  For the year 2000, Letterboxd has 4,101 (as of today).  As I intend to enter at least 50% of the entire year's output into the bracket, the early years of film are good for a trial run of this bracket - purely in terms of practicality.  The reduced numbers of films mean smaller brackets, and fewer decisions.   

Secondly, I know next to nothing about the early years of cinema.  I could have gone earlier than this, but I settled on 1910.  At this time 'cinema' hasn't really been established.  New ideas for film-making techniques, story-telling, production, cinematography, business, acting and all other areas of the industry were being invented seemingly each week.  There were no hard and fast rules yet.  Film-makers in different parts of the world are trying a variety of approaches and all focus on what they consider to be worthy subject matter.  Yetthere was already film history and careers in the nacent film industry.  Georges Meliés had already made over 1,500 films, but had only 2 film-making years to go.  James Williamson have done much to develop the early possibilities of storytelling on film.  In 1910 he shot his last film.  1910 was also the year of the first film shot in Hollywood, "In Old California" by D.W. Griffith then just starting out his career.  Also starting her career the year before was Mary Pickford.  Despite not wishing to have a Hollywood centric view of film, this seems like a good place to start.  It is a year poised between the age of cinema's absolute pioneers and the next generation of film-makers who would taken the new medium, play with it and begin to make cinema what it is today.

Lastly, in 1910 most films were one or two reelers.  With a couple of exceptions the longest films were 15-16 mins long, most well under that.  This means they can be watched relatively quickly making this less of a marathon and more a series of short sprints.  Of those films that survive most are no longer protected by copyright and are happily available in several places on the Internet.  They're often damaged yes, only surviving in one print with pieces missing, outgassing and all manner of calamaties that can affect aging nitrate filmstock, but those that made it tend to be out there and readily viewable.  Performing an overview of a film year becomes much easier with such ready accessiblity and lower time commitments.  That said, there are some films listed in the Letterboxd list that either haven't survived or are hidden in the archives of film conservation organisations.  When I come across those I'll either do my best to describe the film and some of this history of its production or just put a place-holder there in order to come back to it when I can access it.  If I spot a film hasn't survived it's less likely to make it through the bracket. 

I have already run the 1910 bracket and I'm going to start with the films that won then move backwards through the rounds to those that didn't quite make it to the final.  With each review, I'll put up it's path to being chosen for viewing and give some brief desciptions of those films it beat on its way to being watched.  For those interested, for 1910 I selected the the top 256 (of 263) films listed by Letterboxd, seeded in popularity order and entered them in a double elimination bracket.

That's a whole lot of bracket.

But first, here's some 1910 events for a picture of the world the cinema-goers of 1910 would have lived in.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2017, 04:49:26 AM by ProperCharlie »

ProperCharlie

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Re: ProperCharlie does Brackets: 1910
« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2017, 03:00:21 AM »
The World of 1910 News Bulletin

 
  • Powered flight has just been invented and the rush to be one of the world's first pilots is underway, although there are many fatalities.
  • The first commercial airline service (by Zeppelin) takes to the skies.
  • The first public radio broadcast takes place in the USA.
  • The British King Edward VII dies, George V succeeds him.
  • There's also a new king in Siam.
  • Halley's comet passes the Earth.
  • The Union of South Africa is created.
  • The Mexican and Portuguese revolutions begin.
  • Japan annexes Korea.
  • Dr. Crippen is arrested despite being in transit on the Atlantic thanks to telegraphy.
  • Jack Johnson beats James J. Jeffries sparking race riots in the USA.
  • The Ottomans are fighting in Albania.
  • Pneumonic plague is rife in China.
  • Henry Ford sells 10,000 cars.
  • The Boy Scouts of America are founded.
  • Dorothy Arnold disappears.
  • In the UK the Cineamatograph Act comes into force allowing local authorities to licence cinemas.

And so onwards, into the Abyss...

ProperCharlie

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Re: ProperCharlie does Brackets: 1910
« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2017, 03:13:11 AM »
Afgrunden (The Abyss/The Woman Always Pays) dir. Urban Gad
Kosmorama
Denmark



Bracket Record:
  • Round 1. bt Betty's Apprenticeship
Winners' Bracket:
  • Round 2 bt. Der Hausarzt
  • Round 3 bt. A Trip on the Metropolitan Railway
  • Round 4 bt. A Japanese Peach Boy
  • Round 5 bt. In the Border States
  • Round 6 bt. Two Kids on a Spree in Brussels
  • Winners' Bracket semi-final bt. The Unchanging Sea
  • Winners' Bracket final bt. Frankenstein
  • Grand Final bt. Frankenstein

Link to Film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVQMYnvprRk&t=1339s#no

Across the wild, wide, pampas-populated plains of Jutland, mothers whisper to their daughters, "Child, beware the Danish gaucho, for he will appear at the window of your room riding upon a very tall ladder and whisk you away to a life of giddy excess, wild stage performances and suggestive dancing.  Men will fight over you, women will be jealous of you and you will have to battle to keep your man.  All of this is most un-Danish, find a nice vicar's son instead."  This maternal lecture gave at least one Danish daughter a rebellious idea, armed only with a butter knife for protection, she sets off to the circus to learn the art of the lasso.

Welcome to the screen Die Asta.  Asta Nielsen, in her debut film, plays Magda Vang, a vamp in a black dress and a range of flamboyant hats.  A young lady with irrepresible urges that will not be satisfied by Sundays at church nor reading in her room.  She is all slinky-hipped, heavy-breathed and has kohl-rimmed black holes for eyes, better for graviationally attracting men into her orbit.  Her motive is lust.  It doesn't take her long to escape the confines of her white Sunday dress to become clothed head to toe in black.  This is a morality tale which directs the audience to paternally condemn Magda, but frankly they're just here for Die Asta's chest-heaving magnetism.  Yet despite this thickly applied coat of desire, Asta Nielsen's acting is for the most part naturalistic.  Compared to some of the rampant overacting, gesticulating, fainting and jumping-jacks of fury that goes on in films of this era, Asta Nielsen's acting style is more akin to what we'd see in something from decades after this.


The opening shot of this is something special.  Just look at this composition.  Magda, front and center waiting for the tram of destiny.  Cameras in 1910 boxes that stayed still and filmed a fixed scene.  There were occasionaly slow limited pans probably performed by a number of young men below the shot grunting as they laboured to turn the tripod physically, or maybe on an expensive, newly-fangled rotating camera.  What there weren't any of, because it hadn't really been used yet despite being invented in 1907, were follow shots filmed on camera dollies.  Following on from The Abyss's opening shot, Magda boards a tram in Copenhagen which then sets off.  The camera follows...  The camera is positioned directly behind the tram, filming the scene of gentle flirtation between the two innocent young people whose eyes meet on the the sunlit and open rear platform.  Trams, as well all know, are inherently magical vehicles.  Trundling magic boxes of intimacy and mystery with a backdrop of city scapes that jostle and jar plotlines into life.  They also run on rails providing the ideal platform for a dollied camera.  In Copenhagen trams can be double-headed and thus what Urban Gad must have done is mount his camera on the tram platform behind and filmed the scene taking place on the leading car, as sunny Copenhagen scrolls by. Quite the playful shot.


Also playful was the scene that got this film banned in Norway and Sweden, and restricted its distribution in the USA - presumably by the General Film Company.  Again, innovative composition; a stage filmed from the side with the unseen audience off to the right.  We can see four men, one dressed as a policeman, watching the two performers on stage.  Their gaze is intense, fixed and male like the camera recording the scene.  The performance is essentially the story of a tango stripped of its music and its steps.  A fandango of lust, desire and power-exhange.  Die Asta is in charge.  Like Wonder Woman, she brings her man to heel and forces the truth from him.  The dancing is not erotic, there is no mystery, it's entirely designed for male arousal.  Physical foreplay.  It's proto-bump'n'grind.  Rubbing groins, locked eyes, pushing breasts, there can be absolutley no mistaking what Die Asta wants - even if her partner is playing hard to get.  At the conclusion, bouquets of flowers spurt from the unseen audience as Magda drinks in her applause and her ability to render all men helpless.  Although the gaze is male, the sexuality is female. 


As a whole though, this film is a morality tale made painfully obvious by the innocent wearing white while the sinful dress in black.  Apart from Magda, every other character, including all the men, are ciphers.  Narrowly drawn caricatures that could easily get away without names in the credits, but instead be reduced to a word or two 'The Fiancé', 'Lustful Gaucho', 'Theatre Owner' etc.  Given the short running time of most films, this isn't uncommon in 1910, but The Abyss has three-reels to use and it's all spent on Magda.  Magda is the only fleshed out character.  The drives, desires and decisions here are hers, even though they are written and filmed by a man.  That is transgressive, even now, let alone in 1910.  That's not even taking account of the kink on display.  Although I'd argue that the film is neither pornographic (it's too chaste) nor erotic (it's too overt and overplayed) by today's standards, it is most definitely sexual.

Danish cinema was early out of the gates in cinema history.  In 1910 there were a number of Danish releases, some of which I hope to be covering later.  Their favoured subject matter was as moral and judgmental as the most preachy D.W. Griffith's melodrama, yet far more transgressive than anything else including any number of the female nude tableaux that were being made.  For instance one of the films The Abyss conquered on its way to ultimate number one spot in this bracket is Der Hausarzt (The House Doctor) by Johann Schwarzer, which is a few minutes of a woman undressing for a doctor's examination.  It's developed enough for a certain national flavour to films to become apparent, which perhaps was only otherwise happening in France, Italy, Germany, the US and the UK at this point.

The final novel thing about this film is its length.  It's 38 minutes long.  In the one-reel era, this is at least three reels long.  It's also one continuous, coherent narrative.  The reels wouldn't make much sense on their own.  They had to be shown together in order.  This is unwieldy, expensive and uncommon in film up to this point.  The first example it is the Australian film The Story of the Kelly Gang made in 1906.  Urban Gad could use his three-reels of film to take time developing the story.  Scenes could be lingered over.  He could afford time for Magda's character development, slow moments, as well as the infamous dance.  He did not have to push his foot to floor on the plot pedal.  This was an epic in 1910.  A torrid one.

Two meta-moments for the modern viewer.  For some reason that I couldn't fathom, a sign is hung outside an establishment later in the film saying 'Pause'.  I'm assuming this a Danish 'Out to lunch, back in five minutes' sign, but in the context of a moving picutre it has oddly come to mean something that isn't intended.  Also, Danish for 'The End' is 'Slut' which appears in big letters after Magda meets her fate.  Unfortunately apt for English speakers, as this is indeed three reels of voyeuristic slut-shaming of the highest quality.

Notes on the Vanquished:
  • Betty's Apprenticeship is of the European variety of comedy/slapstick where an innocent, normally a child or young woman, causes chaos with a series of outrageous skits upending social norms.
  • I've described Der Hausarzt in the text.  Johann Schwarzer made a number of films with were entirely focused on female nudity.  They were nearly all destroyed by the Austrian authorities later in the decade.
  • Mounting a camera on a railed vehicle is not unique to The Abyss in 1910.  A Trip on the Metropolitan Railway also does this but it is straight phantom ride footage filmed from a train.  Interesting, but it's not using a moving camera in a way integral to a narrative, although it is sort of indicative as to what cinema is emerging from the UK at this point.
  • A Japanese Peach Boy is an Edison film, the second film ever directed by Ashley Miller, presenting a Japanese folk tale about a childless couple.  It is a broad telling of the tale and the racial stereotyping is typical of the 1910s.
The other films I will cover in future installments.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2017, 04:19:06 AM by ProperCharlie »

1SO

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Re: ProperCharlie does Brackets: 1910
« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2017, 08:57:10 AM »
I'm starting with 1910.  There are several reasons for this.  First, Letterboxd lists only 263 films from this year.  There were obviously a lot more films made and realeased then (IMDb has over 6000 in its database), but of course, most films of that era did not survive.  For the year 2000, Letterboxd has 4,101 (as of today).  As I intend to enter at least 50% of the entire year's output into the bracket, the early years of film are good for a trial run of this bracket - purely in terms of practicality.  The reduced numbers of films mean smaller brackets, and fewer decisions.   

I have already run the 1910 bracket and I'm going to start with the films that won then move backwards through the rounds to those that didn't quite make it to the final.  With each review, I'll put up it's path to being chosen for viewing and give some brief desciptions of those films it beat on its way to being watched.  For those interested, for 1910 I selected the the top 256 (of 263) films listed by Letterboxd, seeded in popularity order and entered them in a double elimination bracket.

I'm following, but starting in 1910 is going to be a blind spot for most of us. I've only seen 10 titles from 1910, including Afgrunden and The Unchanging Sea. The only title I can recall images from is Frankenstein.

Would've loved to been following along as you go through the list. Maybe a couple of lines about each film to go with these longer posts for your winners.

Was there fatigue in watching 256 films from this year? I think that much silent cinema would drive me bonkers.

« Last Edit: October 18, 2017, 10:06:22 AM by 1SO »

DarkeningHumour

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Re: ProperCharlie does Brackets: 1910
« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2017, 10:11:41 AM »
I didn't know you could go bonkers at all.
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ProperCharlie

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Re: ProperCharlie does Brackets: 1910
« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2017, 10:33:41 AM »

I'm following, but starting in 1910 is going to be a blind spot for most of us. I've only seen 10 titles from 1910, including Afgrunden and The Unchanging Sea. The only title I can recall images from is Frankenstein.

Would've loved to been following along as you go through the list. Maybe a couple of lines about each film to go with these longer posts for your winners.

Was there fatigue in watching 256 films from this year? I think that much silent cinema would drive me bonkers.

It's not actually possible to watch all 256 films, several of them are lost and still others are locked away in archives.  I'd hoped that most of the 1910 films that are on Letterboxd would be the ones that made it today, and mostly they are.  However some are missing persumed lost.  The bracket used synopses, reviews, comments and as well as clips and if something was less that a few minutes long, well I just went and watched it anyway.  That information was used to run the bracket and if I hadn't already watched something that got through to the final rounds, I watched it then. 

I must have watched 40-50 all the way through in total and apart from one of two directors, who's names I began to dread, it's not too bad.  You get a sense of national cinemas emerging as well as film grammars, acting techniques, camera tricks and so on.  The types and styles of films the early studios favoured becomes apparent as well was which studios took better care of their film archives...

I'm hoping to give one-line summaries in my Notes on the Vanquished sections.  There are also one or two films that didn't make it far through the bracket that are nevertheless noteworthy in one way or another so I may add a little postscript when I'm all reviewed out to cover these.

I'm not sure I'm allowed by the message board rules to post link to where these films can be found - although YouTube covers a lot of bases.  If I'm allowed would links to the films be good idea?
« Last Edit: October 18, 2017, 10:48:53 AM by ProperCharlie »

DarkeningHumour

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Re: ProperCharlie does Brackets: 1910
« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2017, 11:03:43 AM »
Unless you're doing the sorts of things that bring one to ejaculate things like « Arrhh » and « Savvy mateys? » to and adorn oneself with such fashion accessories as poultry-adjacent pets and ersatz limbs, the forum should be okay.
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pixote

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Re: ProperCharlie does Brackets: 1910
« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2017, 12:20:36 PM »
This is awesome. Very excited to read along and maybe even watch a few of the favorites.

I'm not sure I'm allowed by the message board rules to post link to where these films can be found - although YouTube covers a lot of bases.  If I'm allowed would links to the films be good idea?

It's been common practice to avoid direct reference to torrent sites, though I'm not aware of any official policy.

I am not the most prolific of posters.  Not only on this message-board, but on the Internet as a whole.  I am not a natural sharer.  This has its advantages, but than I do like to watch films and post reviews, and I don't do enough of it for my own liking.  I need something to overcome my natural reticence, get me watching things and posting.  What better than a highly structured and needlessly over-complicated marathon?

Yes! Thank you for sharing. I always enjoy your writing.

pixote
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

ProperCharlie

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Re: ProperCharlie does Brackets: 1910
« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2017, 04:01:05 AM »

Frankenstein dir. J. Searle Dawley
Edison Manufacturing Company
USA






Bracket Record:
  • Round 1. bt L'exode
Winners' Bracket:
  • Round 2 bt. His Mother's Thanksgiving
  • Round 3 bt. Monsieur du Crac
  • Round 4 bt. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  • Round 5 bt. Spirochoeta pallida (de la syphilis)
  • Round 6 bt. The Automatic Moving Company
  • Winners' Bracket semi-final bt. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
  • Winners' Bracket final lost to The Abyss
Losers' Bracket:
  • Losers' Bracket final bt. The Unchanging Sea
  • Grand Final lost to The Abyss

Link to Film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZ-OrfJHHro#no

In lieu of montage, Dr. Frankenstein spends two years hiding behind title cards learning the secrets of life.  Eschewing the conventional sequence of these things, he decides to use his learning to create a new life, before getting married to his beloved.  As a result many people faint before, on reflection, good prevails and things get back to normal.

The first screen adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel made 92 years after the story was first published.  It had lost none of its power to shock in that time.  Edison Studies were at pains to point out that the adaptation had foresaken the more "troubling, repulsive aspects" of the story and focused on the "psychological" and "mystic" problems in the tale.  As such it's a loose adaptation.  So loose in fact that the only aspects of the story that is still in place is that the lead character is called Dr. Frankenstein and he creates a new being in his laboratory with a monsterous aspect.  The monster pursues him and, at one point, gets jealous at a wedding.  That's about it.  All the murdering is replaced by fainting fits.



Even with that sliver of a plot, J. Searle Dawley has to press on with rapidity to get through it.  Most of the story happens at breakneck speed, the title cards few and far between, and not that helpful even if they are straight exposition.  You have to know the story already to understand things entirely.  The one sequence that is dwelt on is the monster's creation sequence.  One of the wonderful things about Mary Shelley's story is that she's incredibly vague about the creation process and that has allowed every film-maker since to embelish.  The director here is happy to oblige.  This takes place in what could be a stage magician's cabinet and involves use of reversed film, a creature emerging from hellishly backwards flames and it does kindle a touch of creepiness.  Like the many trick films from the previous decade, this takes a while to play through, made longer in this instance to add in some new-fangled cross-cutting to allow us to view Dr. Frankestein's reactions to event.  Very little acting is required from the cast.  They respond by overacting admirably.


That's not the end of the stage magic references as Chekov's mirror, in which much of the action is seen, still has a part to play.  Stage magic, which was at its zenith in this decade, has an influence on this film as does the Guignol theatre spreading out from Paris.  You can see from the poster what sort of things was popular all over the US at this time, and that's what it's competing with.  The attraction with this film is that you get to see what's going on inside the cabinet for once.  It's not concealed, you can see the magic happening.  That's quite a draw.  Added into the mix is a touch of pantomime farce and circus sideshow, so whenever the creepy and macabre monster stalks his prey, revealed in the large mirror that takes up a significant portion of both the room and the screen, the paying audience can scream "He's behind you" while throwing their popcorn and sweet wrappers at the screen.  Ultimately it's a number of jump scares for Dr. Frankenstein and his new wife, and early body horror grotesquery plus something macabre in a box for the film-going public. 



It's claimed that this was one of the first horror films.  Well, maybe.  It has the thrill of the freak-show, but there's not much else.  It's more of a drama with a couple of Meliés-esque trick-film sequences inserted in the middle.  As noted before, the studios made a point of noting that they'd moderated the tone of the story to remove the disturbing bits as they saw it.  Unlike some other films of the time that sought to include the elements that people were pruriently coming to see on the screen (cf The Abyss), this film tamely removed them.  However by advertising this, they're reminding the public that the story sails close to the acceptable wind and for those wanting something a bit extra from a film, they might just see it here(note that the monster appears front and centre of the cover on the first issue of 'The Edison Kinetogram' as well.)  But no promises.  Saying it's not scary but at the same time sort of hinting that it is shows the studios not really knowing how to handle something like this quite yet, but developing some intersting approaches to advertising and getting people into the stalls.   

The only cinematic innovations are the brief inclusion of cross-cutting in the monster's birth sequence and the technicality of a cue sheet for accompanists suggesting pieces to play at certain points as well as the mood the music should take.  As I mentioned previously, the trick-photography had been done before, but not necessarily in this context.  The restoration has some interesting tinting of the film, but this doesn't seem to indicate anything to do with the plot, more put there to try to enhance mood.  It's a shame this film hasn't survived in that good a condition.  It is the first Frankenstein and has fun with its monster, yet beyond the thrills of the side-show and magic act, it doesn't offer much else.  A trial run at something the studios hadn't got to grips with yet.

Notes on the Vanquished:
  • L'exode is a biblical tale from Louis Feuillade (who I'm sure we'll meet later on).  I'm not sure that this film has not been lost however.
  • His Mother's Thanksgiving is a seasonal drama of the naivety of the newly middle-class and a losing of the old ways from Edwin S. Porter for Edison.
  • Monsieur du Crac is our first encounter with Émile Cohl and his stop-motion animation.  This one in much the same style that Terry Gilliam would use in the animated sections of Monty Python.  In this film Monsieur du Crac relives the plot of 'The Core' when all he wanted to do was smoke his pipe.
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the second adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson story (the first was in 1908).  At this point, the story was only 24 years old.  This adaptation is Danish, directed by August Blom and produced for Nordisk Films.  There are no extant copies of the film according to Wikipedia although 4 people on Letterboxd claim to have seen it.  As there were screen adapations of it in 1908, 1912 and 1913 and several later in the decade, They may be getting mixed up with one of the others.  The popularity of this and of Frankenstein shows a certain appetite for the gothic and the bloody in the film-going public, and that right at this point Jekyll and Hyde were a much safer bet for a studio wanting thrills than Frankenstein.
Hopefully I'll get to the other films.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2017, 04:19:44 AM by ProperCharlie »

ProperCharlie

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Re: ProperCharlie does Brackets: 1910
« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2017, 03:50:49 AM »
The Unchanging Sea dir. D.W. Griffith
Biograph Company
USA




Bracket Record:
  • Round 1. bt An Unselfish Love
Winners' Bracket:
  • Round 2 bt. Marvellous Melbourne: Queen City of the South
  • Round 3 bt. The Aerial Submarine
  • Round 4 bt. Le petit Chantecler
  • Round 5 bt. Rien n'est impossible a l'homme
  • Round 6 bt. Birth of a Flower
  • Winners' Bracket semi-final lost to The Abyss
Losers' Bracket:
  • Losers' Bracket semi-final bt. Birth of a Flower
  • Losers' Bracket pre-final bt. In the Border States
  • Losers' Bracket final lost to Frankenstein

Link to Film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hru5LikQPE4#no

The sea.  It doesn't change.  Men and women however are a different story.  Mary Pickford looks at the camera.

This is a simple tale told over the course of one-reel of film.  There's barely any plot at all, the gist of it being summed up in the phrase, "The Sea is a Harsh Mistress".  It's almost a mood piece from D.W. Griffith, getting into the swing of things having made his debut two years previously.  His already making his calling-card in two ways.  First his sheer prolificness.  He makes more that 90 films in 1910 alone.  Also he is experimenting with what is possible in one-reel of film, notably in terms of plot and pacing.  He's taking the cameras outside of the studio and dealing with natural light and weather.  He's developing genres such as westerns and war films and romantic dramas.  He's also unswervingly moralistic the point of preachy in much of his output.

 

This is a little different from the stock Griffith product.  Here mood and perhaps even melancholy creep in on a tale spanning a generation.  What is really impressive is the sea on film.  It's the star of the show and that's in a film starring the 18 year-old Mary Pickford who'd only been in the film business for a year.  D.W.Griffith's frames much of the action against the sea with waves rolling up along a beach, cold and unending.  There's one shot of what we assume is a body washing up on the beach, inert and face-down that is compellingly haunting. This shot alone allows Griffith to tell the story of the film in a single sea-powered shot.  The relative absence of story means Griffith can afford to spend time using shots like this to dwell on moods and feelings, and the calming yet terrifying majesty of the sea.  There is mercifully little in the way of preaching and there are some experiments in framing a shot and composition.  The editing is a little off.  Some shots shift from a natural shot capturing the action, to a framed shot showing the same scene continuing, in order to better compose the elements of the scene.  The camera and actors seem to jump even as the narrative continues.  Blocking and editing had still to be perfected.


The rest of the film involves generational jumps forward in time.  Griffith uses He's using make-up and acting (and title cards) to indicate the passage of time from scene to scene.  The means that much of the action involves the central cast emerging from a ramshackle beach-front property, and then standing in their new attire and make-up in front of the camera, in something akin to a pose for a family snapshot.  Mary Pickford only shows up at the end of reel and then manages to break the fourth-wall almost immediately, smiling at the camera and lighting up the hearts of the audience with playful innocence.   


Despite it's simplicity this is still a powerful film and that's down to Griffith choosing the sea as his stage.

Notes on the Vanquished: 
  • An Unselfish Love is a tale of farming in north-west Canada brought to you by Edison and J. Searle Dawley and made with money from the Candian Pacific Railway's Colonization Department, although I can't find any record of this surviving.
  • Moving elsewhere in the British Empire, Marvellous Melbourne: Queen City of the South is footage of everyday Melbourne life including many left-to-right pans (could cameras only pan in this direction in 1910?) and some, yay!, tram-mounted phantom rides through the city.
  • The Aerial Submarine is tale of pirates, underwater bullion theft and airborne escape rushed through in one-reel.  It sounds like there's a touch of Jules Verne about this one.  I wish this had made in further through the bracket! 
  • Le petit Chantecler is puppet-based stop-motion animation by Émile Cohl telling a story regarding a chicken-farm in a manner not entirely unlike Peter Gabriel's video for Sledgehammer. 
The Unchanging Sea also managed to knocked out Birth of a Flower single-handedly, beating it twice in the closing stages of the bracket.  I'll get to that film, and the others not mentioned, later.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2017, 04:20:23 AM by ProperCharlie »