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Archive for March 23rd, 2010

by Joel Bocko

#51 in Best of the 21st Century?, a series counting down the most acclaimed films of the previous decade.

Of the two most cited interpretations, the most frequent reading of Gus Van Sant’s enigmatic title holds that it refers to “the elephant in the room,” which nobody wants to talk about. Yet this is facile – was it really true that nobody wanted to talk about Columbine in the wake of the 1999 high school massacre? Was this true even beforehand, given that Columbine was actually the climax to a spate of school shootings, all of which received ample press coverage, rather than the kickoff? Furthermore, what exactly is it that’s not being discussed? Social isolation? The influence of the media? Video games? Gun control? Violence in America? Not only were all of these issues seized upon after the killings, but Van Sant makes a point out of eschewing all these explanations in his film (giving each of them a bit of airtime before moving on to other matters). So no, there’s no elephant in the room here, and if there is, no one’s ignoring it. The second reading, the one that it seems Van Sant actually intended, references the allegory of the blind men and the elephant, each touching a different part of the body and varying wildly in how they describe the animal. Likewise, Van Sant’s meditative, almost cruelly cool film is, at 81 minutes, too vast to take in from one perspective – which is not to say it’s particularly deep. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 1924 155m) DVD1/2

Happiness must be earned

p  Douglas Fairbanks  d  Raoul Walsh (and Douglas Fairbanks)  w  Douglas Fairbanks, Lotta Woods  book  “The 1001 Nights” ph  Arthur Edeson  ed  William Nolan  md  Carl Davis  m  Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov  art  William Cameron Menzies, Anton Grot  cos  Mitchell Leisen  spc  Ned Mann  restoration tinting  Ron Sayer

Douglas Fairbanks (Ahmed the thief), Julianne Johnston (Princess of Bagdad), Snitz Edwards (thief friend), Anna May Wong (Monol slave), Brandon Hurst (Caliph of Bagdad), So-Jin (Prince of the Mongols), Noble Johnson (Indian Prince), Mathilde Comont (Persian Prince), Charles Belcher, Etta Lee,

Right, here’s the scenario.  You are in a cell on Death Row with a DVD player or a VCR and you are being allowed one film to watch the night before you die, but only have a library of silent films to choose from.  Well forgive me Messieurs Chaplin, Keaton, Gance, Eisenstein, Murnau, et al when I say that there is only one choice; Doug Fairbanks’ fantasy The Thief of Bagdad.  Not only is it my favourite silent of them all, it’s one of the best.  Without it (and Lang’s Die Nibelungen) fantasy in the cinema may not have come as far as it has today as this one set the rules.  It also stands as a testament to that most joyous of silent stars, Douglas Fairbanks, who David Thomson perfectly described as a “transforming movie actor whose presence so embodied the spirit of naïve adventure.”

            It differs quite a bit from the later Korda version of the tale; for starters, it basically combines the role of the thief with the heroic prince.  The eponymous Ahmed is a thief who obtains a magic rope to help him into the palace for acts of larceny, only to fall in love with the princess.  When the princess later challenges her several suitors (including a megalomaniacal Mongol) to bring back the rarest treasure to win her hand, Fairbanks enters into the fray, going through adventures in such wonderfully corny places as the Valley of Fire, the Valley of the Monsters, the Cavern of Enchanted Trees and the Abode of the Winged Horse on his way to the Old Man of the Midnight Sea.  (more…)

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