1928: 5 movies

(Last updated 13 September 2012)

L'étoile de mer
Direction, production, and cinematography by Man Ray
Starring Kiki of Montparnasse

   No, your screen is not out of focus. This is a poem in movie-form. It switches from blurred visuals to clear and sometimes blends them, intercutting with textual lines, and taking us through an existential day in the head of a romantic man and the woman he cannot stop thinking about. An added treat is how director Man Ray uses the camera to boast his mastery of creating frames of such beauty that could previously only be found in paintings. Kiki is perfect as the dreamy/creepy object of desire, and the poetry-theme is a perfect vehicle to present the surreal and dadaist flood of imagery.
   The movie is based on Robert Desnos' poem, and the title translates as "The starfish".

Polizeibericht Überfall
Directed by Ernö Metzner
Written by Grace Chiang and Ernö Metzner
Cinematography by Eduard von Borsody
Starring Heinrich Gotho

   Out of nothing springs a suspenseful tale about people, their desires, their survival, and their cruelty. This movie is great because of its dedication to tracking movement. We start by following a rolling coin through a singular roving scene of the seedier side of life. It's a beautifully photographed journey that makes us think about our own struggles and the causes of injustice. All the while, the editing leaves us breathless.
   The title translates as "Robbery Police Report".

La passion de Jeanne d'Arc
Directed, co-written, and co-edited
by Carl Theodor Dreyer
Co-written by Joseph Delteil
Co-edited by Marguerite Beaugé
Cinematography by Rudolph Maté
Set decoration by Jean Hugo and Hermann Warm
Costumes by Valentine Hugo
Starring Maria Falconetti

   You can feel the epic-ness of this one from the start. In the middle you feel the strain between holiness and madness. By the end, you are only left with the painful awareness of human ignorance and cruelty. The deep thoughts and emotions come across not only because of the riveting true story the movie is based on and the ingenious way it is structured, but also because of it's amazingly intimate photography. It closes in frightfully close at times to draw us into the central character's situation, and it sometimes spins around 360 degrees which immerses us inescapably into the period. The acting equally never lets up until we nearly pass out. This all makes for difficult viewing, for sure, but irresistible viewing all the same.
   The title translates as "The Passion of Joan of Arc".

The Gallopin' Gaucho
Directed and animated by Ub Iwerks
Produced and voice-acted by Walt Disney
Music by Carl W. Stalling

   From the opening shot, our view rushing out of the shrubbery to follow a gallant mouse riding an ostrich, this movie impresses us with its spirited romp through an Argentine town. We visit a cantina, fall in love, and try to rescue a damsel in distress. All the while, we stay close to our protagonist, Mickey Mouse. His nonchalance and the movie's consistent humor are the essential ingredients here, and make for a pleasant vacation. 

The Circus
Directed, written, produced, edited,
and starring Charles Chaplin
Co-starring Merna Kennedy
Cinematography by Roland Totheroh
Art direction by Charles D. Hall

   Up to this point, most of Chaplin's movies made people laugh, and they kept them laughing all the way out the theatre. 1915's The Tramp is one exception where the laughs run up until the end when, a bittersweetness closes it out. This movie, made thirteen years later, borrows the basics of that arc. There are laughs throughout and cinematic splendors such as the mirror scene, the fumbled magic tricks, and the scene in the lion's cage. By the end, however, we notice that the tramp has grown. He has run from cops, lions, and angry circus performers. He has had fun and helped a person worse off than himself, but when it is over, and there are no more people to run from, and no one left to help, he simply leaves. The abruptness is startling, largely because of the buildup from the longer running time than the 1915 movie. Yes, Chaplin introduces the cinema to a new character: it's a character that was previously a clown but is now a wandering romantic, a super-hero. He becomes real here and not just a cartoon. But even with all of its grandiose strivings, the most vibrant and memorable thing about the movie is the fun which leads up to the circus scenes and the level of artistry that went into making the circus feel like its own separate, lonely universe.

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