Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tartuffe (1926)

Emil Jannings. Like Sampson, his power exists only while he dons the beard.

Silent Drama (Germany)

Starring: Emil Jannings (The Blue Angel; Faust), Werner Krauss (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari; Burning Soil)

Directed By: F.W. Murnau (The Last Laugh; Nosferatu)

Overview: A man acts out this morality play about hypocrites for his grandfather and his grandfather's nurse, to show him that she only seeks to inherit his fortune, just as Molière's Tartuffe did.

Acting: Silent film demands over-emphasis, extra impression, moods to be conveyed to make up for the minimal dialogue, and for the most part it's fine here. Still, I get the feeling the characters went too far into the Expressionist, too far past the realist. For Tartuffe to have his nose literally in a book, and I mean touching the pages with his nose, what was that? Isn't that a symptom of autism? That's ok, everyone else was overzealous too. That must mean it's Murnau's fault, right? Perhaps his vision was just a little too hard to grasp this time.
Rating: 5

Cinematography: Nothing inspired. It was a period piece, I SUPPOSE, but aside from the big dress and the weird hair, it really didn't seem too 'period' to me. There's a big house, an odd interesting angle or two, but nothing I would have imagined to be this poor for such a brilliant cinematographer as Murnau. If I were to grade this on a Murnau scale I'd give him the lowest score possible. Not only was I disappointed, I was shocked.

Rating: 5

Script: Remember the story your friend told you when he was walking down the street about how he was walking down the street one day? You like this friend, you liked his story, but it was just something to fill the empty air while you strolled along. Yeah, exactly like that.

Rating: 6

Plot: I'm not sure if the original story took place like this, a play within a play, but Murnau's tale has an actor presenting it to his disapproving grandfather to teach him a lesson. I think they should have taken that completely unnecessary preamble out. For someone to say "Look what's happening in your life! Watch this movie about the same thing happening to this guy!" God. As stories go, this should have been a short, even 63 minutes was too much for the substance it held.
Rating: 4

Mood: Bad Silent! Ever so often, you'd see the lightly comic potential of a scene, or the exaggerative characteristics of the players which could have made them haunting, seductive or terrifying, if only a modicum of effort had been put towards enhancing this piece. The music was terrible, the worst of Silent Era. To think that a lone piano would be enough in this age of digital remastering. Stupid. Murnau what project was your head on? Maybe the one you did right after? In the same year? Why did you bother making this then? It only hurts your reputation.
Rating: 4

If you think the story is a little fruity, here's the guy who wrote it... Get it now?

Overall Rating: 48% (Tar-TUFF To Watch)

Aftertaste: Well I guess I should stop putting Murnau on a pedestal. I will now admit that after seeing this many of his films, though he is a genius from time to time it's not got that Tarantino consistency. Is Murnau my favorite Silent Director? Ooo, I dunno, I'm torn now, but I'll wait to see his other 'masterpieces', Sunrise and Tabu. You'll have my report in after that. We'll see.