Storm Over Asia (1928)
Genre: Silent Action War Drama (Soviet Union)
Starring: Valery Inkijinoff (The Indian Tomb; Chinese Adventures in China), I. Dedintsev
Directed By: Vsevolod Pudovkin (Mother; The End Of St. Petersburg)
Overview: In 1918, A young Mongolian sets out to sell a valuable silver fox pelt. When he is cheated by the Western fur trader, a fight ensues, and he flees to the hills. There he finds Russian Revolutionaries and joins up with them.
Acting: PANTOMIME: A.) any of various dramatic or dancing performances in which a story is told by expressive bodily or facial movements of the performers. B.) conveyance of a story by bodily or facial movements especially in drama or dance C.) the art or genre of conveying a story by bodily movements only. D.) The actors in Storm over Asia and their awesome expressions.
Man! Talk about a director who knows how to pick em! Or maybe it's the cinematic genius of being able to capture it effectively every time... Either way...
Cinematography: This director singlehandedly slowed my conclusion of the Silent Era study. After seeing this, I begrudingly added three more of the films that he's made on my 'Must See' list. The reason why is not because his imagery is comparable to all the great silent cinematographers like Gance, Eisenstein, and von Stroheim... uh, actually it is. This is a director who's cinema is more like photography, with lots of poignant, close, tightly-cropped, almost static images full of symbolism, like that of a general with smoke rising angrilly behind him as he punishes someone. This is what silent film is about. This is what you search for when you look for hidden gems. This is the best of its kind.
Script: Clearly, it's 'as few intertitles as possible', and this one does a wonderful job of making a complex story explain itself in the visuals. When there is speaking, oftentimes we aren't shown their words, due to the obvious nature of the conversation, like two generals discussing while pointing at a map. Those of you unfamiliar with silent film may find this a touch distracting while you sit there, wondering what they're saying, but Silent Era fans will see this as a wonderful way of staying in the moment without bogging us down with chatter. Use of different font sizes was also quite effective, as impassioned shouting is easilly represented in the fullscreen-filling words.
Plot: This is a tremendously multi-faceted tale. From one act to another, the story undergoes several changes. For our hero, they are the most dramatic, as he is faced with a treacherous journey, but this also ends with an amazing 'coming full-circle' kind of plot. I was nodding, impressed at the irony and the depth.
Mood: Some scenes are slow and calculating, drawing you in to a Tibetan ceremony celebrating the birth of the new Lama, or full of suspense, rich with emotion as a soldier is orderd to take a man on a death march to be shot. The story elements were presented here in a bold, blatant manner, and as much as some might say it's 'too obvious' or 'propagandist', I liked the lack of subtlely, just as I enjoyed it in The Last Laugh. It was a nice touch, a powerful way of delivering the tale, therough our ribcage rather than through subtle displays. Oh and the music was just perfectly appropriate.
Overall Rating: 88% (A Tempest!)
Aftertaste: This one surprised me not because it was awesome, as I was expecting this to be great, but because it was so free of racism and ignorance. the Buddhists were portrayed just like you would expect them to be, like a documentary would. This was written by a Russian, about a Mongolian fighting the partisan fight against the westerners. I will admit that a good ol' Republican would say that the Westerners are seen in a bad light, but we DO need an antagonist. This film carries less of a communist message than those that are directly about the revolution, so it's a refreshing and less political study than Battleship Potemkin, for example. All told a pleasant surprise worthy of revival.