My Favorite Movies: 1926/1927
Ringedwithtile last edited by
Rules of my favorite movies blog:
- All entries must be one-hundred words or less in length
- Entries are to be ranked in a descending order.
- Every year, save for 1915-1919 must be a top 10.
- Honorable mentions may be included, but they must be less than or equal to fifty words in length.
A short disclaimer:
These lists aren't some be-all-end-all. There are obviously a lot of films that I've missed, but I have spent and continue to spend a good amount of effort seeing the really notable stuff from any given year if it is possible for me. These lists are just the opinions of someone who has spent a little too much time watching movies.
10. Flesh and the Devil (Brown)
Two of the era's most charismatic performers, Gilbert and Garbo appear together in a notable romantic melodrama that lives up to its scandalous name. A pair of best friend soldiers clash over a woman (who wouldn't fight over Garbo?), and it results in the sort of l'amour fou one might expect. It's stuffy and overwrought, but more than enjoyable for its craft within the context of its time, or a work of near-kitsch in a modern lens. It also has a pretty great ending---something that these sort of films usually lack.
9. Faust (Murnau)
I don't love this one as much as many others do, but there's no denying it's a mad mammoth of a film. Adapted from Goethe and directed by Murnau, Faust impresses primarily on its epic scale and inventive visuals. God and the devil are both uniquely, monumentally presented (who can forget the image of satan looming over a city?), and the film frequently straddles camp with its alternating tone and larger than life performances. It's one of the defining examples of the wild, unhinged nature of silent cinema and for that, I enjoy it very much.
8. Now You Tell One (Bowers)
Charley Bowers is an overlooked silent comedian, one that had a great handle on conceptual, cinematic comedy through his talents in animation. Now You Tell One is a fun short about a club of liars that spend time trying to one-up one another, and young Charley, a botanist with a magic fertilizer tells them his story. This fertilizer, that allows him to graft anything he wants from a plant, is where Bowers really shines, stop-motion animating the growing process really fluidly---especially in a sequence in which a plant sprouts several cats!
7. Nothing But Time (Cavalcanti)
A unique free-form documentary about Paris, that would serve as inspiration for some following 'city symphony', though I find it's a little different. It's more broadly abstract and in-line with other French experimental films of the time, bookended with more conceptual passages that use text and double exposure in a more poetic way. Its scope is relatively narrow too, shot on long lenses and focusing in on smaller details and poorer sections of the city. It doesn't reach the all-encompassing scope that I think it aims towards, but it's still a strong piece.
6. A Sixth Part of the World (Vertov)
Vertov, noted poetic documentarian, continued his progression towards the abstracted real with this fascinating feature. It's a film meant to present the state of the country, made from footage shot in the corners of Soviet Russia, starring its diverse groups of workers and citizens. That this film feels like a total package, a satisfying and far-reaching work of documentary realism is due to Vertov's excellent, rhythmic editing skills. Though it is well-conceived visually and conceptually, Vertov includes far too many didactic inter-titles, which keeps this one from classic status.
5. The Black Pirate (Parker)
In many ways the prototypical swashbuckler. Fairbanks plays a talented prince, the only survivor of his plundered ship, who decides to get in with the pirates in order to exact revenge. Shot on early two-strip technicolor, it gets across a number of dull reds, blues, and tans, which gives it a very distinctive and unique look. Adding to the look is excellent production design, which is appropriately ornate and massive, and factors into action choreography really well, as evidenced by its immortalized sequence of Fairbanks gliding down a ship's sails, slicing them in two. It's a lot of silly fun.
4. The Adventures of Prince Achmed (Reiniger)
One of the first animated feature films ever made, The Adventures of Prince Achmed relies on silhouette and shadow play as its mode of animation. While this sounds indistinct and inexpressive, it, through great attention to detail and small gesture, ends up with a mystical and timeless quality that I really love. As a work of animation, it has more in common with experimental film of its time than it does with the animation that would follow it. It's based upon One Thousand and One Nights, and slips between plot threads and locations quickly and gracefully. It's still very catching.
3. By the Law (Kuleshov)
A nasty, grim little film from Russia based on a Jack London novel. A small group of prospectors hit gold, but the bad news is they start killing each other, with the remaining survivors stranded in a snowed-in cabin. Kuleshov, who's best known for his work in film theory, was actually a very skilled, idiosyncratic director in his own right, and here he captures the dark, elemental fury of London beautifully. There's a genuine claustrophobia to the film that's uncommon for its time, a reluctance to make the close-quarters tension theatrical that's really admirable.
2. Menilmontant (Kirsanoff)
Menilmontant opens and closes with violent murder sequences, but it's a still a stunning, beautiful short film about a working-class woman's struggles in Paris. The film has no inter-titles, which puts the weight solely on Kirsanoff's visual direction, which is uniformly excellent. It has an impressionistic, experimental style while remaining totally coherent in its plotting. The film's third act, which intimately details the plight of this young woman in the freezing cold, is one of the most heartbreaking sequences of just about any film thanks to Kirsanoff's precise shot selection and Nadia Sibirskaia's beautiful performance.
1. The General (Keaton/Bruckman)
Buster's soaring, untouchable masterpiece of action-comedy. Set during the civil war, from the Southern perspective, Buster plays a train engineer who enlists in order to impress a girl, but is rejected due to his job importance. The North then steals his train with the girl aboard, and Buster pursues them. Shot primarily on moving trains, and featuring dozens of inventive stunts, this is Keaton at his most ambitious and dangerous. Buster's performance is one of the best of the era, from dangling between train cars to sitting dejected on a rotating coupling rod.
10. The Cat and the Canary (Leni)
One of German Expressionist director Paul Leni's late, Hollywood efforts before his untimely death a couple years later, and perhaps my favorite of his work that I've seen. It's a classic, goofy haunted house film about a group of would-be inheritees gathering at a spooky mansion for the reading of a will. Possible haunting and an escaped convict make sure it's a turbulent night. What's best is how pulpy and fun the whole thing is. Everything is exaggerated: the performances, the visuals---even the title cards. It's all a lot of dumb fun.
9. Wings (Wellman)
The first best picture winner of all time, Wings is a World War I film about a trio of enlistees: two men (one upper class, one middle) who become fighter pilots and a woman, who's naturally in love with one of the men, as an ambulance driver. It's a Hollywood epic: a film with plucky characters, action, romance, comedy, and all that good stuff. Naturally it's too long and a bit tone-deaf, but Clara Bow is legitimately sexy and the dogfighting scenes are staggering in their orchestration; a wonderful mix of studio magic and actual in-flight footage.
8. Bed and Sofa (Room)
A bit of an anomaly in Russian cinema, Bed and Sofa is a working class drama about a woman who begins sleeping with her husband's co-worker while all three live under the same roof. Rather than the drama reducing to violence and argument, it instead focuses on their efforts to keep things civil. What results is a very unique and nicely performed light chamber piece about polyamory and female agency in relationships---something that seems almost unimaginable for its time period.
7. The Unknown (Browning)
Early horror maestro Tod Browning's very unique thriller; a love triangle between circus performers, focusing on the criminal, fraudulently armless knife thrower, Alonzo, played by Lon Chaney. The body, the heart and the deceptions of both run wild in a desperate, carnie atmosphere. Chaney is fantastic and profoundly committed as usual in an imposing, maniacal role that requires him to perform dexterous tasks with his feet and toes. At just over an hour, it's an economical potboiler that serves as some of Chaney and Browning's best work.
6. Metropolis (Lang)
One of the most enduring silent film ever made in terms of reputation, Fritz Lang's massive science-fiction critique of industry and class warfare is still as watchable and relevant today as it ever was. The production design is famously astounding; a beautiful combination of huge sets and precise use of mattes and miniatures. I also especially love the choreography of the workers, who work frantically and despondently march in step with one another. It's the go-to spectacle picture of the late silent era, and likely the film Lang is known best for.
5. It (Badger)
There are many films that rely upon a main character possessing some kind of unique talent, but how rarely is that carried through with? How many times does the performance really live up to the premise? 'It' is one of the best films in this regard, and 'it' refers to pure, magnetic sex appeal, something Clara Bow had over just about every other actress of her era. 'It' is about a department store clerk pursuing her boss. In classical romantic comedy fashion, there are misunderstandings and physical setpieces which the film does well, but Bow's modern charm drastically elevates it.
4. Napoleon (Gance)
Abel Gance, the early French master of epic filmmaking, had already crafted a number of technically astounding, bombastic features, but the only one I love is this, his wild biopic on the French emperor. Napoleon isn't a tender or insightful film, it's a furious, technical work full of great photography, massive scope and just about every film technique invented by its time. Most impressive are the film's action sequences: the opening snowball fight with child Napoleon, and the film's final war sequence, which is partly presented as a triptych: three different projections side to side.
3. 7th Heaven (Borzage)
A trio of romantic dramas make up my top three, and the first is this lower class romance-come-wartime-drama by the great Frank Borzage. The romance blooms out of the act of charity of a blue-collar worker looking out for a down on her luck woman, which results in them living together. Unfortunately the first World War intervenes, which casts them apart. Borzage displays his characteristic tenderness and unpredictability in the film's plotting, and Farrell and Gaynor are fantastic in their first pairing. The film has a kind of synthesized chemistry about itself that's hard to describe.
2. The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (Lubitsch)
My favorite of all of Lubitsch's silent films, The Student Prince is an excellent, unexpected film that wonderfully addresses Lubitsch's talents in critique, sexuality, and just plain great storytelling. The film concerns a privileged prince who goes off to university for the first time and falls for a worker at the university tavern/inn. It's a gently doomed romance, with wonderful performances and Lubitsch's assured, subtle touch. I especially love the ending of the film, which is as devastating as it is obligatory.
1. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (Murnau)
Perhaps the greatest romance put to film, and Murnau's crowning achievement, Sunrise is a unique blending of cinematic and storytelling technique. The film is about a turbulent marriage, in which a husband plans to murder his wife for a life with his mistress. Despite a dour setup, the film transforms itself more than once, becoming an immensely moving work of love, grace, and finally, tension. Murnau's poetic, expressionistic visual talents were never put to better use. It won the one-time awarded "Unique and Artistic Picture" award at the Oscars, which is one of the best decisions they've ever made.
1927 ostensibly marked the end of the silent era, with the first sound film (the pretty bad Jazz Singer) releasing that October. It's still the biggest technological advancement in film production/form/technique, and changed the industry drastically. That said, there will still be a bunch of silent films in the next entry, as early sound films were usually pretty lacking.
Recommendations, compliments, and complaints are all welcome!
Oscillator last edited by
It cannot be understated how incredible the flying footage in Wings is.
Also, I got around to seeing The General and Seven Chances - both excellent! The rock slide sequence in Seven Chances is truly something else.
Feels like its been forever since you posted one of these threads! Ive been waiting for it!
I remember watching Metropolis and at the time it made me very... uneasy. I really liked the film but it gave me a... not sure how to put it nire than uneasy feeling haha. I mean it is beautiful and outstanding in many ways, I love it and lothe it in a weird way.
Wings are one of those films I have watched many many times and it really sucks me in everytime I watch it. It was early Hollywood before it became all about explosions and the 2 seconds editing.
I have also heard a lot about The Black Pirate, but never actually gotten around to watch it myself, perhaps I should give it a go?
Ringedwithtile last edited by Ringedwithtile
@Lotias It takes a while! Not just writing them, but I also like to check out stuff I've never seen and rewatch the films I haven't in a while. I've got about 20 or so to watch before I can be certain about the next entry.
yeah I can imagine! just want you to know that I really really appreciated these threads you do! <3
Keep it up and we are almost on my favourite year (1929)! When I see that you have posted a new one it brings a smile to my face, like some old culture which I think a lot of people otherwise misses