Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Wedding March (1928)

You can tell it's love by the apple blossoms

Silent Drama

Starring: Erich Von Stroheim (Sunset Boulevard; Grand Illusion), Fay Wray (King Kong)

Directed By: Erich von Stroheim (Foolish Wives; Greed)

Overview: In this tale of love versus marriage, we find a poor aristocrat falling in love with a common girl, but forced into marrying money.

Acting: The more I think about directors with a starring role in their own movies, the less I like it. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada and Braveheart aside, some people just should not be in front of the camera when they're behind it. Stroheim's character portrayals are always smug and proud and that's not endearing when you're trying to get people to feel for you. Search me. On the other hand, Fay Wray as the common girl and Matthew Betz as the boorish butcher of a boyfriend are genuine tours de force.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: It seems that Stroheim was trying to be all epic with many of his scenes: grand parades and marches with horses and men decked out in full military dress uniforms, expansive montages of city streets of Pre-WWI old Vienna and the stunning interior of the great Cathedral. I also found it interesting that those parts were the least interesting to me. When you take an old film, don't remaster it, and show these great images of cityscapes, you're bound to be let down as the age of the film just makes it suffer.
Rating: 7

Script: I will also be glad when film stops leading opening scenes with the moral of the story. Not only is it spoiler material, but why did silent directors like D.W. Griffith do this? Were audiences that stupid that we need to be Spielsberged through a film from second one? Wouldn't that be the directors fault if we didn't get the point? Regardless, the words spoken in this film were rarely inspirational or important, though there were a few moments that plunged deep in the heart, there were far less than you would expect from a tale of tragic irony.
Rating: 6

Plot: It also helps to play love like you're honest, instead of keeping the audience constantly second-guessing if this is just another fling or if it's the real thing. Creating such confusion in a story that should be an obvious tragic separation of the institute of marriages of convenience and those of love makes for a bit of a let-down. Still, with such flair for the dramatic, we have a terrific ending, and some great characterization, especially that of the butcher boyfriend character.
Rating: 7

Mood: We have a beautiful woman with a boor of a man who falls in love with a highborn soldier. There's great elements of irony, some great mood setting torrents of rain during the blessed event, dark omens and portents along the way, and from second one (see script) we know how this is going to end. For that reason it's unfortunate, and after seeing what Stroheim did with the feel and themes, the fact that he didn't do it all the time made for a slight disappointment. His potential just was not fulfilled. I'll blame Hollywood.
Rating: 7

Fay Wray at 19 years old and one hell of a stage presence, oh and him too, this guy...

Overall Rating: 70% (Not Quite A Funeral Dirge)

Aftertaste: I should have known better than to think Stroheim would actually make a 2-hour movie of his own will. Nope again. It's great to have a director who's all about 'The Epic', but for God's sake stop making 6-hour long movies and getting mad at Hollywood for not footing the bill. As with all his films, this was shorter than the vision allowed, but compared to his other movies, this one is not at all disjointed due to editing for time.

Now that I've watched three of this man's films, I'll agree that Greed is one of the top 20 best silent films ever made. Stroheim might be a genius, but he's just not my kind of director. I suppose Hollywood constantly interfering with his vision was a big part of that, but honestly, 9-hour cinematic events are not what people want when they go to the theater. Stroheim should have understood that much. Was he touched in the head for thinking otherwise? Maybe just.