Another bag o’ movies
Viewed April 8, 2009: Symbol of the Unconquered, a silent movie from 1920 directed by Oscar Micheaux. This is an odd duck of a silent film, as it (unlike most movies of its time) was directed by a black man and featured black people – it’s usually striking how one-toned most of these old silent films are, with non-whites often shown as caricatures or worse. Unfortunately some of the film (mainly a significant section towards the end) is missing and is replaced by title cards. The story concerns an African American woman who is light skinned and, posing as white, moves to an inherited plot of land somewhere in the wilderness. There’s a lot of nefarious action: land grabbing, race hatred, mother-hating, self-hating, and (in the missing section) fighting the Ku Klux Klan. With or without the missing piece, the whole thing is pretty awful, and it’s been augmented with a clangy, almost beatnik score, to boot.
Viewed April 8, 2009: N.Y., N.Y., a 1957 movie directed by Francis Thompson. TCM showed this as a companion piece to “Manhatta” which I wrote about here. In this short film, Thompson shows distorted images of NYC scenes. There’s a lot of kaleidoscopic, folded, and distorted imagery, most of which is pretty fascinating.
Next up that same night (April 8, 2009): Sherlock Jr., Buster Keaton’s masterpiece from 1924 directed by Keaton, starring Keaton and an able cast. Buster plays a film projectionist who dreams of being a detective like Sherlock Holmes. He is studying a “how to be a detective” book when he himself is accused of a crime – a rival for the hand of the woman he is attempting to woo has stolen the woman’s father’s watch partly in order to make Buster’s character look bad. He (Keaton) spends some hilarious time pursuing suspects, and then while at work dozes off and imagines that the people in his case are characters in the film he’s showing, and that he himself walks into the movie to help them out. There are many great gags, wonderful pieces of cinematic trickery, and perhaps some commentary about Keaton’s involvement in his own films. I could see this many times – and in fact have.