• Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Throughout the Ages (D.W. Griffith, 1916)
    • Made as a response to the backlash toward his previous film, Birth of a Nation, D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance chronicles different forms of prejudice throughout human history. The film presents multiple storylines, each taking place in a different time period. The first is set in the modern 1910s and is about crime and redemption. The second focuses on the life and death of Jesus Christ. The third explores the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of 1572. The fourth is about the fall of Babylon in 528 BC Persia. All the stories, in true D.W. Griffith style, are connected by shots of an angelic figure, Eternal Motherhood (Lillian Gish) rocking her baby. Overall, I thought the film was a snooze. Some stories are pretty entertaining, but others never kept my interest. The set designs are unbelievable, though. They’re huge, they’re beautifully crafted, and they add an epic feel to the film, and the framing proves how competent and sophisticated Griffith is as a director.



  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920)
    • A crazy hypnotist named Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss) manipulates a sleepwalker (Conrad Veidt) into committing murder. Historians will tell you that this film is a quintessential piece of German Expressionism, a creative movement which originated before WWI which explores themes of madness, betrayal, and emotional being. The whole film is a twisted nightmare. It’s like you’ve stepped into a black-and-white painting that’s been crumpled up then flattened out again. Just imagine a 1920s Tim Burton movie. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tim Burton was influenced by this film. The story is engaging, the characters are interesting, the setting is cool and creative, and the film runs at a perfect length. I really liked this one. Anyone with a taste for the strange and the surreal will like it too.



  • Broken Blossoms/The Yellow Man and the Girl (D.W. Griffith, 1919)
    • I’m starting to understand that the very idea of political correctness was unfathomable in the early 1900s. This is another one of those films where a POC character’s entire personality was based around their racial stereotype. And while Broken Blossoms isn’t as sickening as Birth of a Nation, it definitely still has its uncomfortable moments. The film is about two lost souls who find each other in a seedy district of London. Lucy (Lillian Gish) is an innocent woman who’s being abused by her father, a championship boxer. The “Yellow Man” (Richard Barthelmess) is an immigrant whose ethnicity you should be able to identify given his title- who travels to Europe to spread the word of Buddhism but gets overwhelmed by city life. The friendship between the characters was cute, and the plot moves pretty quickly. I forgot the immigrant does actually have a name, Cheng, but they stereotypical nicknames so much I’d completely forgotten about it. So far, it’s only Griffith film that hasn’t lulled me to sleep.


  • Way Down East (D.W. Griffith, 1920)
    • If you haven’t noticed, D.W. Griffith was one of the most prominent filmmakers of the silent era. And if you haven’t noticed further, Lillian Gish was his go-to actress. Gish and Richard Barthelmess team up once again for a melodrama about a country girl who must rebuild her life after a failed marriage. This movie’s really good at sucking you into this woman’s dilemma and making you care about her well-being. It’s a difficult feat, especially seeing how for a modern audience-member like myself, the hyper-dramatic acting style of the silent era often makes the characters seem cartoony. But Gish’s performance felt so realistic, so genuine. Once again, the shot compositions are well-done and the production design is smooth. The story is easy to follow for the most part and the film even has a pretty cool climax.



  • Within Our Gates (Oscar Michaeux, 1920)
    • Known as the earliest film directed and written by an African-American, Within Our Gates deals with issues of race, the KKK, and Jim Crow laws. It focuses on an educated African-American woman and her quest to set up schools for impoverished youths. The overall quality of this film wasn’t as crisp as the previous films I watched, but that’s probably because it had a much lower budget. The weird lighting made the scenes either too light or too dark, the acting is kind of awkward, and the whole production seems amateurish. A few chunks of the film are missing as well, but I don’t want to necessarily blame Oscar Michaeux for that. He either wasn’t able to film those scenes due to certain constraints or those strips were lost over time. Either way, it was cool to see a film based on true, African-American experience, and not on a white person’s interpretation of it.



  • Orphans of the Storm (D.W Griffith, 1921)
    • Set in the aftermath of the French Revolution, Henriette Girard (Lillian Gish) takes her sister, Louise (Dorothy Gish), to the city in the hopes of curing her blindness. During their journey they become separated: Henriette is kidnapped by an upper-class lord who falls in love with her, while Louise is taken in by a lower-class gypsy and trained to be a beggar. Similar to Griffith’s other works, this film conveys a major social issue. Orphans of the Storm highlights the class conflicts of the time period and the consequences that is has on society as a whole. The story was interesting, Lillian Gish was great once again, and the cinematography is great. The issue plaguing the film, again, is the length. But I didn’t mentally check out as much as I did with The Birth of a Nation. The portrayal of classism is engaging for the most part, but ultimately forgettable. And that’s the best way to summarize this film- good, but forgettable.




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