Showing posts with label 1925. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1925. Show all posts

Friday, 14 June 2013

The Gold Rush

Imagine being a big fan of The Beatles who doesn’t like Hey Jude or a car enthusiast that isn’t keen on Ferraris. That’s the situation I find myself in when it comes to The Gold Rush. I’ve never met as big a Charlie Chaplin fan as myself and doubt I ever will. His 1925 film saw the beginning of his golden period, a period which lasted fifteen years before his deportation from the US and witnessed the production of some of his most successful films. Chaplin remarked in his own splendid autobiography that he wanted The Gold Rush to be the film that he was remembered for and to an extent it is. Why is it then that I don’t love his Ferrari, his Hey Jude, his Gold Rush? The Gold Rush was amongst the first Chaplin films I saw and I had high hopes for it. When I was initially discovering Chaplin’s work it was obvious that this was one of his most famous and as a result, surely one of his best. Many people would argue that it is. I was instantly disappointed though with a film that I felt was short of laughter and featuring a plot which I cared little for. The story certainly beats some of his earlier shorts and it’s better written and deeper than say his follow-up The Circus but it doesn’t really do anything for me. It feels like the plot of a short that has been stretched to breaking point and isn’t as sweet, dramatic or sophisticated as the likes of The Kid or City Lights.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Charlie Chaplin - The United Artist Films and Beyond

Last year I watched and reviewed over forty films made by one of my cinematic heroes, Charlie Chaplin. It’s taken a while but after cataloguing all of his Essanay, Mutual and First National Films, I’ve come back to the tramp to look at the final portion of his career. Even as I write these words I realise how absurd ‘final portion’ sounds as the years I’m looking at cover over four decades and include his first dramatic film, his first talkie and his final British films following his exile from his adopted United States. This period also coincides with what is today, his most iconic era; the fifteen years between 1925’s The Gold Rush and 1940’s The Great Dictator. Despite having been one of the most famous men in the world for over a decade, 1925 marks the beginning of the era which still defines Chaplin’s motion picture career. It was between the years of 1925-40 that he created some of the most essential comedy moments in film history and all but one of his films from this period has been added to the US National Film Registry. For me and indeed many film fans these films are gems but as with many of the silent shorts that I reviewed last year, some of the films surrounding this golden period will be new to me.

Most of the films listed below were produced through United Artists, the company co-founded by Chaplin and fellow stars D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks (pictured above). The company is still going strong today but lost its independence in 1967 and is now a subsidiary of MGM. I have, in the past year and a half, reviewed some of the films on this list already but I’ll be watching the rest in order and may decide to re-watch the ones I have seen anyway. As usual you can click on a film’s title to read my full review.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Battleship Potemkin

Released in 1925 as Communist Propaganda, Battleship Potemkin went on to become one of the most famous and most loved films of the silent era. The film is ranked at Number three on Empire’s ‘100 Best films of world cinema’ and was named ‘The greatest film of all time’ at the 1958 World Fair.

The film is an account of a mutiny which occurred in 1905 aboard the Russian battleship Potemkin. We find the crew to be poorly treated by their Tsarist officers and are about ready to snap when all they are offered to eat is rotten meat. The crew, upon hearing of workers rising up on land commit the act of mutiny and set sail for Odessa. When they reach the port they are supported by the people who are then brutally murdered by the Tsarist authorities. Back out to sea the Potemkin is set upon by a number of Tsarist ships who seem ready to engage the mutineers. The question is, will they join with the mutineers or fight?

As a piece of propaganda, the film is unmatched. The Tsarist’s are seen as cruel, unjust and bloodthirsty. Even Joseph Goebbels claimed anyone without firm political conviction could become a Bolshevik after watching it.  The most famous scene is still shocking today. The army is bought in to quell the rebellion and we watch as children are stamped to death by a fearful crowd, a mother is shot while holding up her dying son to the soldiers and the most famous image of all, a baby in a pram, falling down the Odessa steps. This scene in particular has become iconic and has been copied by numerous artists and film makers. Nearly 90 years on, it is still a shocking scene to witness.

The Odessa Steps sequence
The film seems ahead of its time with its use of close ups and quick cutting. Though common today, the editing seen in Potemkin was revolutionary in its day. Multiple cross cuts were also used to show the hustle and bustle of ship life.

Shocking even today
While I believe the film is a masterpiece of silent cinema and propaganda, I couldn’t help feeling bored at times, especially during the first third of the film. The boredom paled in comparison however to the frenetic pace and shock of the Odessa steps scene. At only 72 minutes long, Battleship Potemkin is a must see for fans of early cinema or political propaganda but even for those without an interest I would still recommend seeking out the Odessa Steps scene online.