Friday, April 14, 2006

Greed (1924)

Holy Christ on a crutch, she'd sell her Grandma to a glue factory

Genre: Silent Drama

Starring: Gibson Gowland (The Phantom of the Opera), Zasu Pitts

Directed By: Erich von Stroheim (Foolish Wives)

Overview: When an engaged woman wins the lottery, the happy couple find themselves victims of wealth, rather than benefactors.

Acting: Often you can tell which the director cares more about, the performance, or his vision. It's pretty obvious when a man spends all the budget money on sets and cameramen rather than casting, but with Greed, it's hard to tell. You'll find that the main players in this are absolutely terrific, and they play their parts so well that you'll feel for each of these characters, no matter how wrong they are.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: This is the first film that was shot entirely on location. That in itself is interesting, but let me give you my favorite example of the high art that Stroheim puts into this film: when the couple is getting married, as the wedding march plays, the song changes to a funeral dirge as we pan outside the window to the procession walking down the street with a coffin. What terrific foreshadowing. This has rightly earned its place in the 'Classic' category. It's sad. Film doesn't do this nearly enough nowadays.
Rating: 9

Script: "GOLD - GOLD - GOLD - GOLD. Bright and Yellow, Hard and Cold, Molten, Graven, Hammered, Rolled, Hard to Get and Light to Hold; Stolen, Borrowed, Squandered - Doled."

Even the writing throws in a touch of poetry, literally. The real emotion and situations are certainly enhanced by the occasional intertitle. The climactic beginning of the last act drives to us perfectly how the husband and wife are lost to the lot they've drawn. Solid writing throughout, amazing really...
Rating: 9

Plot: I will admit this was a touch slow at times. You can chalk this up to the fact that the original film was 9 hours long. Stroheim was a bit of a weirdo that way, making incredibly long films then condemning the studio for editing it down to a manageable length. There are one or two continuity issues due to that editing, but it's still better than many I've seen. The story is classic, building up our characters' hopes and dreams enough to make us really feel it when the decline begins.
Rating: 8

Mood: The metaphors added such a great element to this film. The image of a woman rubbing cream on her skinny hands turns into those same hands, running through the pile of coins she's collected, as her miserly obsession grows. There's something about silent film that makes a director have to SHOW how a person feels rather than telling us. It assumes a certain intelligence from the audience, and proves the skill of the artist. Imagery. This is why film is so great.
Rating: 9

Gibson does a great "that's it you're goin' down" face. Serious.

Overall Rating: 86% (Certainly Worth Hoarding)

Aftertaste: This is considered one of THE most classic films ever made. I agree. I've heard of this long ago and have been waiting to see this for a while now. I was not disappointed, let me tell you. If you want to make friends with film snobs, get this one under your belt. If you want to rule the film snobs, however, tell them how infantile and beneath you this film is compared to [insert made up title you came up with here]. Explain how you were at a screening in Europe but it was too artistic for American audiences so they never distributed it here for fear of losing money. After that you'll rule the roost.

Man, snobs are dicks...