Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Crowd (1928)

Look hard, there's humour here... I just can't find it.

Genre: Silent Drama

Starring: James Murray, Eleanor Boardman

Directed By: King Vidor (The Big Parade)

Overview: A boy is born on the fourth of July, 1900. His father always told him that he would grow up to do great things. This is the story of his life in New York City, one of the seven million faces, trying to stick out of the crowd.

Acting: For a guy who started his career with this film, and who was a stage hand before, actor James Murray's personal story is actually quite similar to the one he plays here. The roles portrayed in this film are really honest, and are almost completely devoid of the melodrama you can expect from the silent era.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: The most impressive scene was after a particularly distracting incident. We find our hero at work trying to focus but we see numbers floating and spinning around his head as the events play themselves out over and over in his mind (a double exposure overlaid across his head). Besides that, this was one of those films that made sure the scenes were just right enough without detracting from the characters.
Rating: 8

Script: "Let me tell you! Marriage isn't a word, it's a sentence!"

Without a script so witty, this film would not have driven the poignancy of emotion that we experience scene after scene. With just a few words, we understand important life moments as those of the everyman, while still getting a genuinely great grasp of this one face in the crowd.
Rating: 8

Plot: Nine endings this director had to make before MGM would let him print the final one. MGM was not a fan of the unhappy ending. What MGM tried to do was end this movie the same way The Last Laugh ended, an utterly saccharine thing that was so out there that it was ridiculous: family wins a fortune and lives happily ever after. Well people didn't go for that... at all. So they cut it, and good thing too. This ends much better.
Rating: 7

Mood: Overshadowed with a constant darkness, this is the kind of drama that is all about peaks and valleys. Full of hopes and dreams, our hero strives to become what his father knew he could. Occasionally life throws us a curve-ball, and Johnny's special life, though still full of hope, becomes less of a certainly, and more of a struggle. This is the story of that life's struggle.
Rating: 8

Eventually this actor became a panhandler, even ironically asking change from King Vidor, the director.

Overall Rating: 80% (Stands Out)

Aftertaste: Considered a masterpiece, I found that ultimately, though the everyday story of the everyman was well told, it wasn't as bleak and dark as I had been lead to believe. This is the sort of life that befalls many people, and though a nice life study, I was a little too hung up with 'When is this going to turn tragic?' As early cinema goes, this is one that will stand the test of time, since the story is still ever-relevant, and the style of the film is still very apparent in today's works. Maybe that's also why I wasn't as impressed as I wanted to be.