Another classic we’ve seen before (also the second film so far that we actually own on DVD), but it’s been years and this is definitely a masterpiece worth rewatching. It’s a sort of dystopian biblical apocalypse story which follows this old, worn-out narrative:
Boy sees girl; boy follows girl; boy finds out father is an evil tyrant; boy goes undercover among the oppressed; boy presents as Messiah to girl; girl is replaced by evil robot; evil robot instigates murder and riot; girl tries to save the children; girl is accused of being a witch; and you know how this all goes. If you don’t, we don’t want to spoil it for you. Yes, the film is almost 90 years old, but a lot of people have not seen it and they should!
This is a stunning piece of cinema in every sense. It is epic in scope, beautifully shot, superbly acted, has amazing choreography (especially the sequence with the workers in the beginning) and incredible visual effects.
Much of the film seems an obvious source of inspiration for other works, and there are naturally many biblical allusions; to Babylon, the Great Flood, the seven cardinal sins, the Golden Calf and the Tower of Babel in particular.
One can spend months analysing this film, and perhaps one should, but we still have atleast 994 films to go (damn you, fluctuating list!) so we’re going to have to wrap this up. If you haven’t seen this film, you should. Go watch it right now! It’s on YouTube – you have no excuse.
After the soulshattering experience of watching a penniless prospector becoming a multi-millionaire and getting together with the woman he loves in The Gold Rush, we needed something heartwarming to lift our spirits. What better then, than a comedy about a train engineer working against the odds to become a lieutenant in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War!
Buster Keaton plays Johnnie Gray, a train engineer who tries to join the Confederate Army during the Civil War but is rejected. His girlfriend, whose brother and father both enlist, believes him a coward and breaks up with him. A year later he gets the chance to prove himself when Union soldiers highjack a train and inadvertently kidnap Gray’s now ex-girlfriend. He follows them, finds out about the Union Army’s plans, rescues his girl and highjacks another train to get back and warn of the oncoming attack.
The stunts and train sequences in this film are spectacular, and the main character is likeable. Even the girlfriend isn’t completely useless, which was a nice departure from some of the other films we’ve watched so far. Also Buster Keaton has the best face ever in show business.
The General is funny, beautifully shot in places (such as when he sits on the side of the train and it starts running), and it has some amazing comedic and dramatic scenes on the moving train. Never has rooting for the Confederate Army been more fun!
We continue our epic quest through the silent film era with The Gold Rush (a.k.a. WHAT HAPPENED TO THE DOG??? Until someone can prove otherwise, we’re just going to assume it did a White Fang and found a lovely pack of wolves to hang with and lived happily ever after). This Charlie Chaplin classic deals with lighthearted themes such as poverty, betrayal, murder, potential cannibalism and bullying while incorporating plenty of humour, his signature physical comedy and a (probably disastrous) romance. It also has the best bear fight scene since (or I suppose before?) The Revenant (2015).
Chaplin’s the Tramp is a lone prospector during the gold rush when he gets caught up in a snow storm. He finds a cabin which is inhabited by a wanted criminal and the two of them, together with another prospector and the aforementioned dog, all try to ride out the storm. Lack of food leads to the criminal (and the dog) going out looking for supplies and also to the famous shoe-eating scene. We never see the dog again…
The Tramp survives the ordeal only to give up on the whole gold-finding-thing and retire to a nearby gold boom town where he meets bitchy dance hall girl Georgia and her rapey douchebag boyfriend, Jack. He of course falls in love with Georgia (despite her making fun of him and treating him like crap) and tries his best to woo her. Which takes us to the part where my sister and I both had a mental breakdown.
Bitchy Georgia and her even bitchier friends tell the Tramp that they will come for New Years dinner. He works and works to make the dinner perfect, but they never show up as they are busy laughing about him at the big party in the dance hall (which he could have gone to as well had they not lied to him). Just in case this didn’t inform the audience of just how worthless these people are, they then proceed to go over to his place to mock him even further. At this point we needed to take a break until we had stopped crying.
Let me tell you about our childhood trauma. When we were young there was a sort of comedy show on NRK (Norwegian TV) every Friday called Go ‘Elg. In every episode there was a segment where they would show names of viewers whose birthday it was, and during this there was a video with a song where an old lady is celebrating her birthday and one by one her friends and family members call her to tell her they cannot make it. Now, the old lady was the male host in drag which was supposed to be funny, but this did not take away from the fact that this was the saddest video ever shown on television! Every Friday, around 17:30, we would sit in our living room and cry about this fictional old lady’s sad, sad birthday. The memory has never left us. This may be relevant to our reaction at this point in the film.
Anyway, once we were ready to return, things were looking up. Georgia did redeem herself a bit by seeming genuinely sorry about what they had done to the Tramp, and he himself stumbled on some good luck. Watch the film to see what we mean. But bring kleenex. Yes, it’s a comedy in many ways, but there is a sadness and melancholy to it which you cannot escape. It is well worth your time, though. And I’m sure the dog is living a happy life somewhere.