January 5, 2007

Lost in Silent Movies

From IMDb

Director: [in Japanese] Mr. Bob-san, you are relaxing in your study. On the table is a bottle of Suntory whiskey. Got it? Look slowly, with feeling, at the camera, and say it gently - say it as if you were speaking to an old friend. Just like Bogie in Casablanca, "Here's looking at you, kid" - Suntory time.
Translator: Umm. He want you to turn, looking at camera. OK?
Bob: That's all he said?
Translator: Yes. Turn to camera.
Bob: All right. Does he want me to turn from the right, or turn from the left?
Translator: [to director, in Japanese] Uh, umm. He's ready now. He just wants to know if he's supposed to turn from the left or turn from the right when the camera rolls. What should I tell him?
Director: [in Japanese] What difference does it make! Makes no difference! Don't have time for that! Got it, Bob-san? Just psych yourself up, and quick! Look straight at the camera. At the camera. And slowly. With passion. Straight at the camera. And in your eyes there's... passion. Got it?
Translator: [to Bob] Right side. And with intensity. OK?
Bob: Is that everything? It seemed like he said quite a bit more than that.
Director: [to Bob, in Japanese] Listen, listen. This isn't just about whiskey. Understand? Imagine you're talking to an old friend. Gently. The emotions bubble up from the bottom of your heart. And don't forget, psych yourself up!
Translator: Like an old friend. And, into the camera.
Bob: OK.
Director: [in Japanese] Got it? You *love* whiskey. It's *Suntory* time. OK?
Bob: OK.
Director: OK?
Bob: [nods]
Director: [to crew] OK!

God, I love Lost in Translation so much. But, that's not what this entry is about. No, it's about silent movies. I watched GW Pabst's Pandora's Box last night for the first time. The film is rightly hailed as a masterpiece of the silent (and any, quite frankly) period. However, you'll notice in the sidebar that I only gave it a B+ and that's for reasons I'm about to explain. I have issues with silent films. Not everyone does. Some can't watch them at all (I'm thankful I'm not that bad) and some wish all films were silent *shudder*.

Thankfully Pandora's Box didn't have some the things that peeve me off about silent films. It's characters didn't walk around bopping their head (I know what I mean by that, so don't worrk) and exagerating every facial expression to the nth degree as if they're trying to power a village with the muscles in their face. It didn't have a cutesy score and it didn't make me sleepy (that's a biproduct of the cutesy scores - they put me to sleep!)

But the main problem I have with a lot of silent movies and Pandora's Box had it (although after about the first half an hour it stopped being such a problem) is that characters have conversations as if they're not in the silent film and then the title cards come up and I'm all Bob from Lost in Translation: "Is that everything? It seemed like he said quite a bit more than that."

Like, character's will look as if they're having this big long conversation and then a title card will come up saying "Father!" and it's like "well, why did you put all that other stuff in there?" I find a bit of it all a tad superfluous (I'm using that word a lot lately, what gives?) Again, Pandora's Box isn't such a bad offender - I'm looking at your DW Griffiths!

But, on the positive side - how about that performance by Louise Brooks? WOWZA! And for fact-lovers, Pandora's Box features, reportedly, cinema's very first lesbian! Hot. The cinematography and design was all fantastic. The final act (with Jack the Ripper?!?!) had me wondering what was happening (it seemed to rapidly change gears).

Still, my favourite silent film is Murnau's Sunrise: A Tale of Two Humans. That movie makes me swoon.

No comments: