1921: 4 movies

(Last updated 30 August 2012)

Opus II
Directed by Walther Ruttmann

   Even more fluid, than Opus I (listed below), the brightly colored segments provide an excellent contrast against the black & white ones. The shapes shifting and morphing in bright hues goes beyond simply engaging our eyes, as they did in the earlier movie, but somehow affect even our emotions. When it's over we have the similar reaction as to that after a symphony or chamber orchestra piece.

Opus 1
Directed by Walther Ruttmann

   Possibly the first abstract movie. By stripping the screen of actors, setttings, and story, Ruttmann shows us an immense uncharted territory of abstract forms and movement. Sometimes slow and graceful, sometimes sharp, quick, and violent, the shapes interact with one another and seem to depict a rivalry between matter and spirit.

The Idle Class
Directed, written, produced, edited,
and starring Charles Chaplin
Co-starring Edna Purviance, John Rand, and Mack Swain
Cinematography by Roland Totheroh
Art direction by Charles D. Hall
Costumes by Mother Vinot
Distributed by First National Pictures

   One of the oddest movies in Chaplin's odd oeuvre. Part of the strangeness we feel comes from the shock and confusion of the opening scene when we see the tramp, or at least it looks like the tramp, cleaned up and wealthy. His attitude seems radically different, but then we realize that he is just some rich bloke who happens to look exactly like the tramp. Another thing that's different is the speed with which everything happens, lightning-quick, and that's even by Chaplin's previously speedy standards. The surroundings are also different in that we never see the slums. Nothing at all is run-down in this movie, aside from the tramp and his clothes. And lastly, there is less sentimentality here, which is super different. There's a lot to laugh at and a lot to think about but there's not much time to get emotionally invested in any of it. Possibly this was because Chaplin wanted this to be the breezy comic balance to his overly-long The Kid, which was made in the same year. The swift comedy is not a bad thing. In fact, the combination of all the new and strange changes to Chaplin's formula keeps this movie ever-fresh. Its details and wild script, meanwhile, keep it endlessly entertaining. It also includes a strong contender for the best ending to any movie in Chaplin's career.

Der Sieger
Directed by Walther Ruttmann;
Produced by Julius Pinschewer

   This isn't the first movie advertisement, but it is one of the most beautiful. It's kind of mind-blowing that an art so pure as Ruttmann's was so quickly incorporated into selling anything, let alone tires. Still, the art is glorious, and it's great to get a glimpse of marketing in 1920s Deutschland. At times, it doesn't seem far removed from 1970s U.S. animated advertisements.
   The title translates as "The Winner".

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