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4.0 out of 5 stars PC agenda, but a interesting collection nonetheless, Jan. 24 2002
This review is from: Origins of Film, the (DVD)
When I first saw this set I felt like the title "Origins of Film" was at odds with the p.c.-revisionist film choices-- it was more like little sidepaths in the history of film that left few traces by the sound era. (To take the best known name on the set, Oscar Micheaux is interesting sociologically, and you may be fascinated by the picture of black life he captures, but he's nobody's artistic ancestor, indeed, at best competent in the silent era and rather less than that in the sound era.)
As I watched more and more of the set though-- and as enough other silent films have been released on DVD that this set doesn't have to carry the burden of living up to its title-- it's grown more pleasing. A Florida Enchantment is a jaw-dropper, a good example of how much more daring 1910s films were than 20s, 30s or 40s ones. Alias Jimmy Valentine is a terrific melodrama, with a surefire climax (that must have had them jumping in their seats) and a detached depiction of one crime that anticipates caper movies like Rififi and Heat. The animation/fantasy disc is fun (although the Oz film won't make anyone forget Judy Garland). And if the black-directed films are mainly of historical rather than artistic interest, Lois Weber and Alice Guy Blache well deserve the disc space devoted to women directors. Guy Blache was as good as anyone directing films in the 1905-1915 era, and Weber is a genuine rediscovery who achieved moments of Stroheimian intensity (never an entire movie's worth that I've ever seen, but moments) as well as dealing time and again with provocative, woman's-point-of-view material. (Too Wise Wives' comic tone makes a striking contrast to the utter seriousness of the Weber films you're most likely to have caught elsewhere, Hypocrites or The Blot.) Those three features certainly justify the price, compared to other silent DVDs, so everything else you discover and enjoy along the way is a bonus.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Devilish interface, divine content, July 20 2001
This review is from: Origins of Film, the (DVD)
Unlike my equally beloved 'Treasures' box set, this isn't an overview of clips and interesting short moments. 'Origins' offers full length animation and silents. This isn't a slick package, and the interface is so cumbersome as to be annoying, but it's well worth the time.
"A Florida Enchantment" alone is worth the price of admission, (Although I dispute the claim that it was filmed in Lauderdale. There are several obvious signs that it was filmed in the northern secton of the state.) In this film, a young woman wishes she were a man after finding her fiance unworthy. There isn't space to discuss every film on this set - but with just this example you get a remarkable look at 'hidden' homosexual humour in early film. The actress playing the lead gives a startlingly modern performance in her male guise. The whites in blackface are mesmerizing when you realize they were probably very common roles.
Moments after she makes her trusted maid a man, the blackface actress turns into a violent drunken criminal who attempts to sexually assault another maid. (If your jaw didn't drop before then, it will be hitting the floor now.)Will our heroine enjoy life as a man? Will she get the girl of her dreams? Will she long to return to her life as a woman? Controversial when it was made, controversial today. And it's just one of the remarkable works on this set.
You will not regret this purchase.
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Origins of Film, the
Origins of Film, the by Frank Peregini (DVD - 2001)
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