1923: 4 movies

(Last updated 2 September 2012)

The Pilgrim
Directed, written, produced, edited,
and starring Charles Chaplin
Co-starring Tom Murray, Mack Swain, Edna Purviance,
Syd Chaplin, and Charles Reisner
Cinematography by Roland Totheroh
Art direction by Charles D. Hall
Costumes by Mother Vinot

   Like The Idle Class (1921), this one doesn't immediately seem to fit smoothly into Chaplin's output. After all, it's a western and Chaplin's character is dressed as a reverend for most of the movie. But as to whether it works, absolutely it does! Chaplin's character hides behind the role of a reverend, finds love, and converts from crime to live selflessly. It's his most mature and complex work up to this point. The ending is in a class all its own. Not happy and not sad, it conveys the feeling that comes with a new day and a new struggle: unending, restless and, somehow, still funny.
   The soundtrack which Chaplin, decades later, tacked on to many of his silent movies is usually unnecessary, and sometimes annoying, but for this one, it compliments the mood nicely and includes the brilliant song, "I'm Bound for Texas", which was written by Chaplin.

Dnevnik Glumova
Directed and with a cameo by Sergei M. Eisenstein
Cinematography by Boris Frantsisson
Starring Grigori Aleksandrov, Aleksandr Antonov,
Mikhail Gomorov, Ivan Pyryev, Maksim Shtraukh,
and Vera Yanukova

   This one is endlessly puzzling. After at least a couple viewings, a framework became somewhat clearer. A troupe of clowns introduce themselves, then treat us to feats of magic, acrobatics, building-climbing, diving, and a marriage ceremony. The cinematography and the novel editing methods keep us entranced, that and the wild abandon of the clowns. The nonsense of it all is so entertaining and assured that it represents a new rush of creativity into the medium and an expanding of the medium's methods and of its intentions. One of the best features of the movie is when certain shots, that we first saw in the beginning, later in the movie repeat but in a longer edit. This effect gives a strange deja vu sensation which goes nicely with the magic theme.
   Allegedly, this is the movie-segment of Eisenstein's adaptation of Ostrovskiy's stage-play, Na vsyakogo mudretsa dovolno prostoty (which translates roughly as "The Wise Man"). The troupe of clowns is made up of Eisenstein's cast and was shot at the Proletkult Theatre in Moscow.
   The title translates as "Glumova's Diary".

The Puzzle
Animated, produced and starring Max Fleischer
Directed by Dave Fleischer

   Another one of Fleischer brothers' Out of the Inkwell series. This one starts with a bewildering puzzle, then continues with Max and Koko picking on each other. Things get even wilder when Koko visits Puzzle Land and Max enters the drawing. The whole thing is out of control and inventive as all get-out.

Safety Last!
Starring and co-written by Harold Lloyd
Directed by Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor
Written by Hal Roach, Sam Taylor,
Tim Whelan, and Jean C. Havez
Co-starring Mildred Davis and Bill Strother
Stunts by Harvey Parry and Bill Strother
Cinematography by Walter Lundin
Editing by Thomas J. Crizer
Produced by Hal Roach

   Gags and stunts fill this movie from the opening moments. We are hardly left any room to breathe as one gag leads to another which leads to another which leads to another, until they all lead to the final huge stunt. It's easy to like the build-up, because it doesn't feel like a build-up, it feels like the whole movie is just wound incredibly tight. Luckily though, the final stunt is big enough to give us all a little relief. Great effects and wonderful performances.
   It must be stated that there are a few stereotypes depicted, racial and otherwise, that weaken the flow because they are included solely for laughs. This is a white-centric movie made in a white-centric time, and if you can accept that, you might be able to enjoy Lloyd as he frantically tries to make a place for himself in that chaotic time. The stunts are made all the more wonderful when you realize that Lloyd's right hand was a prosthetic.

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