Saved for Thanksgiving

November 25th, 2003  |  Published in Uncategorized

If Polytropos has it right, it’s a tragedy that my recently purchased “Two Towers” special edition is still sitting in the shrink-wrap.

On the other hand, we’re working through the pretty good fourth season of “The Sopranos,” and I’ve got no complaints about the stuff I’m sitting through in class. Buster Keaton’s “The General”, for instance, provided one of those great “ah-hah!” late-in-the-term moments where everything we’ve been talking about comes together.

I guess the best way to recreate the revelation would be to sit through a D.W. Griffith (“Birth of a Nation” or “Broken Blossoms”), take copious notes about how numb your butt is getting while you appreciate all the parallel editing and craftsmanship. Then watch Chaplain’s “City Lights” and admire his virtuosity on screen while taking copious notes about how tissue thin the unifying story that holds the gags together is. Then fire up “The General” and prepare for the pleasure of seeing it all come together in the service of a real story that lasts from beginning to end, with story elements that persist and arc beyond their immediate use as a motivator or gag.

Much that has come since in American action and comedy movies is embedded in “The General.” Enough that, as with the recent viewing of “The Man With a Movie Camera”, I’m reminded of the value of taking a history of cinema class: I probably wouldn’t see some of these movies on my own (what with the steady supply of DVDs from Netflix arriving every few days and that copy of “The Two Towers” sitting on the coffee table).

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