Tuesday, August 26, 2008

1927 - Top 10 and Year in Review

1927 was considered by some to be one of the greatest years in cinema history, but it was a bit of a disappointment for me. A couple of the classics (The Jazz Singer, Wings) were actually pretty bad, while one of the supposed masterpeices (The General) is very good, but quite a bit overrated. I saw 19 films this year and only liked 12 of them, barely giving me enough for a top 10. Thankfully, the 10 that did make it were all very good and I'm not embarassed to have any of them on a top 10 list.

I saw fewer films than expected for this year for a couple reasons. A few films just lost my interest for various reasons. I was convinced that De Mille's King of Kings and Fairbanks The Gaucho really were not going to make my top 10. Also, I declined to watch the 1927 version of Uncle Tom's Cabin, because the racial attitudes of the time (as evidenced in Siren of the Tropics and College) already made me uncomfortable and it didn't appear this film would change that feeling.

There were also a few films that I planned to see but later discovered they did not meet my criteria for 1927. Films are placed in the year that they debuted in the United States, as long as that is within 3 years of the international release. If it is later, or if it never got released in the US, then it counts for the international release year. That's why Bed and Sofa qualifies for 1927, but Hitchcock's The Lodger, Pudovkin's The End of St. Petersburg, Eisenstein's October, Gance's Napoleon, and Ruttmann's Berlin: Symphony of a Great City will be placed into later years.

And here is the 1927 Top 10 List:

10. Bed and Sofa (Abram Room)

This surprisignly mature film for 1927 really caught me by surprise. I figured it would be a serious melodrama, but it contains a breezy score, delicate performances, and a hilarious ending. Brilliant treatment of subject matter by Abram Room.

9. Seventh Heaven (Frank Borzage)

Melodrama done right. Everything is over the top, but Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell know how to make it work. Gaynor was ahead of most other actresses of her time, in her ability to play dramatic scenes without going over the top.

8. The Cat and the Canary (Paul Leni)

Every haunted house movie owes something to this one. Leni does a terrific job with the premise, creating suspense through some vivid atmosphere and utilizing early sound effects very well. Martha Mattox's brilliantly droll turn as Mammy Pleasant is a delight.

7. The General (Clyde Bruckman, Buster Keaton)

This might not be the masterpeice that everyone claims, but it is still a very funny film. Contains some very impressive and hilarious stunts performed by Buster Keaton. If only he was a more likeable guy, it would be easier to root for him.

6. The Kid Brother (Ted Wilde)

Harold Lloyd doesn't quite have that problem. He's instantly likeable here, as usual playing an underdog that just wants his brothers to quit picking on him and for his dad to believe in him. Has a stronger story than most silent comedies, and some memorable comedy gags throughout.

5. The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (Ernst Lubitsch)

This is the first of what will likely be very many appearances by Lubitsch on these lists. He takes a standard romance, puts his special touch on it, and makes it feel completely new. Novarro and Shearer are a great romantic pair, and Hersholt is memorable in a supporting role.

4. The Unknown (Tod Browning)

Tod Browning tells a fascinating story about outcasts in a travelling circus troupe. The story is filled with wonderful surprises and brilliantly realized dramatic moments. There is a reaction scene in here where Lon Chaney does some of the finest acting ever captured on film. Works as a great horror/suspense, but also works as genuine drama.

3. Underworld (Josef Von Sternberg)

It's a shame that this film is not currently available on DVD, because it's a wonderful example of classic silent cinema. Like The Unknown, it works on multiple levels. Here we have a classic gangster story with a memorable tough guy at the lead, but we also have a fantastic story of loyalty and redemption at the core. Outstanding performances by all three leads.

2. Metropolis (Fritz Lang)

Fritz Lang was just operating at a level much higher than most other directors of his era. Here he gives us an amazing vision of a futuristic city and the divide between the privileged (who live in the clouds) and the workers that literally power the city. Lang manages to give us a story with in depth political themes, but also a very fast paced and exciting one.

1. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (FW Murnau)

When I first saw it, I wasn't sure this would be my #1, mainly because I had some major questions about the ending. However, this is the film that has stayed with me the most. Murnau's style is very impressive, telling a story with very few title cards and trusting his actors to get the message across, and his beautiful shots of city life are memorable. Janet Gaynor is particularly impressive with her ability to play dramatic scenes without going over the top. The ending still haunts me, but if anything, that's a good thing.

Hope you guys have enjoyed what I've done so far. I've already started watching films from 1928 and will do my introduction shortly. The scheduled films will soon be seen on the right.

1 comment:

phantasmagirl said...

Your comments about 1927 are pretty spot on. It's surprising how movies evolve technically over time, but still center around some of the same themes such as; boy meets girl (The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg), boy tries to impress girl (Metropolis) and insane boy does insane things to keep girl for himself (The Unknown).