The Fall Of the House Of Usher (1928)
Genre: Silent (but narrated) Experimental Horror Drama (USA, France)
Starring: Jean Debucourt (The Earrings of Madame de...), Marguerite Gance
Directed By: Jean Epstein
Overview: This 66 minute film is probably the worst way to experience a house caving in on itself.
Acting: No, it's not overly melodramatic. Yes it's melodramatic, but not completely overboard. The roles of these Frenchmen, even in silence, is rather unique from man to man: the upstanding posture of the stoic fop, the friendly grin of the guest, the morose palor of the wife and the passionate (though perhaps mad) glowing eyes of Mr. Usher. Oh yeah, pretty cool. I'll give em that.
Cinematography: "Avant-Garde," they said. Double exposures and dark halls are great and all, but after a while it was endless walking in the dark with a coffin for the sake of what? Filling time. Granted, Poe's story is only about 20 pages, but even Stephen King's short story Trucks became a pretty exciting Maximum Overdrive. I got issues with this. Shots of humping frogs aside, it seemed amateurish.
Script: The worst sound in the world is English spoken by a Frenchman. To think that silent film needs to be narrated! Just translate the intertitles. The only time I've heard narration of silent film work is with Gold Rush, but of course Chaplin was a genius, so just stop. Oh and thanks for explaining why the house caved in... oh right, you didn't.
Plot: Edgar Allan Poe. THE authority on British Victorian Horror. What makes him so authentic? He lived in Britain during the Victorian Era. That'll do it for you, who knew? So much of his stuff has been made into short films and full-length features, some of it is bound to be molested like a drunk after a cask of amontillado. For the record, I thought "this is short" when I rented it, "so no great loss if I hate it".
Mood: When I started watching this, eager to immerse myself in the tale of a lonely Victorian house and its strange inhabitants, I noticed how the music was phenomenal, how the dark air of then thing was appropriately gloomy. As I kept watching, however, I could not help to think how this was looking more and more like some 9th Grade Goth's first film project. I was chuckling by the end of it, especially at the miniature paper house on fire.
Overall Rating: 46% (Fell On Your Head More Like)
Aftertaste: If Avant-Garde means infantile, I'll be glad to grow out of it. My study of the silent film era is soon coming to a close, and it's still hit and miss. I guess the real fault lies in myself. With modern cinema I can tell you outright if I'm going to like a film or not before going in to see it. I've figured it out, I've been around. I don't tend to get surprised much anymore. When it comes to Silent Film, not only is it a fairly new genre to me, but I don't really remember the 'cultural mood' of the 20s. The fact that I wasn't ALIVE might well be a valid excuse. I'll use that one for now, until a better one comes along.