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What's Your Favorite Silent Movie


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#1 Tim Carroll

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 09:30 AM

This past year there was a thread about what type of films you would like to be making. And a number of folks said they would like to work on films that were pure visual storytelling, stories that did not depend on dialogue to move the plot along.

With that in mind, what is your favorite movie that demonstrates the pure art of visual storytelling?

Happy Holidays everyone,
-Tim Carroll
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#2 Annie Wengenroth

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 09:47 AM

Hm...I'd probably go with "Metropolis" or "Nosferatu", it's a toss-up. Although, one of the best silent films I ever saw in the theater was a screening of the original "Phantom of the Opera" with live score provided by the Alloy Orchestra. It was really memorable.
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 10:52 AM

Well, my favoirte silent era movies are all of Buster Keaton's works, especially "The General". Also, "Sunrise", "Passion of Joan of Arc", "City Lights".

Favorite sound movies that are low on dialogue: "2001", "Days of Heaven".
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#4 Aaron Rothschild

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 11:48 AM

That woulb be Metropolis and Arsenal. I love the camera work of Arsenal.
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#5 Wendell_Greene

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 12:07 PM

Sunrise
Within Our Gates
The Last Laugh
Metropolis
La Diener Combat
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#6 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 12:55 PM

My favorites are Chaplin's "Modern Times"and Keaton's "The General." Harold Lloyd also had some wonderful films as well.

Edited by Eric Steelberg, 24 December 2005 - 12:56 PM.

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#7 fstop

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 01:03 PM

Sunrise is pretty high up, Battleship Potempkinis still STUNNING as is Man With a Movie Camera, anything by Melies, Chaplin's The Kid and I have a massive soft spot for the Laurel and Hardy short Sugardaddies.
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#8 Justan Zimmerman

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 01:11 PM

I'll be unoriginal and put "Sunrise" at the top of my list. I was lucky enough to see it at the Egyptian Theater a few years back. "Sunrise" is also saddled with the dubious honor of having the stupidest DVD distribution ever.

"The Fall of the House of Usher" (Jean Epstein's version - although the silent short is also pretty good.)
"The Crowd"
"Strike"
"The Last Laugh"
"Regeneration"

The 1920s version of "Ben-Hur" gets a special mention for best action sequence in a silent film. The chariot race is as intense as anything made today and looks like it was shot by a French new-wave camera op.
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#9 Freya Black

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 01:16 PM

Meshes of the Afternoon
The Cabinet of Dr Caligari
Invocation of my Demon brother
Inauguration of the pleasure dome
Eraserhead
Faust
The Art of Mirrors
Battleship Potempkin
Der Golem
The Silence (Tystnaden)

Nosferatu (of course) and I kind of like "The Warrior" too.

Oh and those Baraka, Noyquies...things, are those still movies? I think they might be.

I hope I'm allowed to have that many. :)

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#10 fstop

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 01:29 PM

The 1920s version of "Ben-Hur" gets a special mention for best action sequence in a silent film. The chariot race is as intense as anything made today and looks like it was shot by a French new-wave camera op.


The 1920s version also has the superior ship battle sequence. The Heston version is a stylised cheat with miniatures and travelling matte work, but as you say, there's something verite, thrilling and unpredictable about the 1920s equivalent.

Wallace Worsley's Hunchback of Notre Dame is visually wonderful too. Forgot to mention that one. I think it goes without saying that Chaney's portrayal of the title character is as equally vivid as it is filled with pathos.
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#11 Andy Sparaco SOC

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 01:36 PM

Mon oncle (1958)
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#12 fstop

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 01:39 PM

One more:

Not really silent, but minimal as far as dialogue is concerned, Richard Lester's 1959 short The Running Jumping and Standing Still film. If you love Lester's brand of new wave parody auteur humour then this is a must!
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#13 Freya Black

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 02:04 PM

Le Dernier combat:

Everytime I go to get a DVD or video recording, this always cries out to me from the shelf. Every time. I always ignore it because of course I certainly don't want to see a film with "combat" in the title. In fact I've only ever seen the spine as I have never even bothered to take it from the shelf to look at it. But *everytime* it leaps out at me from the shelves, whereas I have to search and search to find most other films.

Okay, I will finally sucumb and take it off the shelf next time I am down there.

I have to say that the last time that a film cried out to me from the shelf like that, it was a film called Vampyr. I nearly didn't pick it up because I assumed it would be a tacky low budget horror film, but then I was like "maybe I would like to see a tacky low budget horror film!" :) I picked it up and saw the words Carl Theodore Dreyer and immediately rushed downstairs and took it home.

I did like that film, especially the way he used every last bit of film in the camera! It made me smile. ;)

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Freya

Edited by Freya, 24 December 2005 - 02:09 PM.

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#14 Andy Sparaco SOC

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 02:06 PM

Le Dernier combat:


This was Luc Bressons first feature film and it is indeed silent because it is a post-apoc scenario where the few survivors have lost the ability to speak. How convenient for a low budget 35mm feature! A young Jean Reno co-stars. Low budget B&W and truly wonderful- it showed the promise of Luc Bresson as a film maker that he delivered on Le Femme and The Professional.

Grab that sucker! (not "Duck You Sucker")

I would add it to "Mon Uncle" as my favorite silent films

Edited by asparaco, 24 December 2005 - 02:08 PM.

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#15 Freya Black

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 02:07 PM

Reading the actual question again, I probably need to strike "The Silence" from my list as the dialogue certainly is required to move the story along. Possibly "The Warrior" also but I'm less sure about that.

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#16 Kitao Sakurai

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 02:15 PM

Alan Clarke, a British director who made work mostly for the BBC in the 80's (and who sadly never became popular in the US) has made some really astonishing no-dialogue films. I say no dialogue and not silent because the sound design becomes a really essential component of viewing his movies. His greatest film (in my opinion) and one of my personal favorite films of all time is "Elephant." Not to be confused with the Gus Van Sant picture of the same title. Van Sant's "Elephant" is actually an homage of sorts to Clarke's version. The floating, roaming steadicam shots, the 1:33 aspect ratio, the "disembodied" narrative viewpoint, the treatment of extreme violence and it's placement in society along with a host of other stylistic and conceptual ideas were taken pretty directly from Alan Clarke's "Elephant," which was made in the early 80's, deals with the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland (as opposed to Columbine) and is only 37 minutes long.

To me, this film is pure cinema. Not pure form or style, but pure cinema in the best sense - he wrestles with a subject that's both inherently political and topical and age-old at the same time and manages to create a succinct, laser-like statement, which, in it's strength, refuses to take sides. All with no dialogue, no narrative development, no "characters" really to speak of, and a really really strict structure. Having spent a little time in Northern Ireland myself, I can appreciate how crazily hard it would be to create ANY kind of statement or piece of art that could somehow deal with such a complicated and brutal situation, let alone with SUCH grace and strength as Alan Clarke's "Elephant."
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#17 Ram Shani

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 02:25 PM

for me its:

sunrise

napoleon- abel ganse
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#18 Mitch Gross

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Posted 25 December 2005 - 10:14 PM

"Sunrise" to me is the silent equivalent of "The Conformist" -- a dazzling visual work of an artist at the top of his form in the medium.

"City Light" is pure cinema without technical wizardry. I frankly think too many young filmmakers aspire to make "Sunrise" when they should be trying to make their films more like "City Lights." With a simple look and a standard shot/reverse shot Chaplin ends this film with such sublime emotion that it makes 99% of cuurent cinema appear completely without real feeling or connection to the audience.

"Mon Oncle" is a brilliant work and one that tickles me every time I watch it, but I recently had a chance to see Tati's "Playtime" in 70mm at NYC's Lincoln Center and it is a work on a higher level. Magnificent.


Many great filmmakers achieve there best moments with no dialogue. Peter Weir is a good example. In each of his films there is a critical moment (end of the first act) when the main character discovers what is the nature of the conflict that will be the main thrust of the rest of the story. Weir always tells these moments without dialogue, letting the audience experience them with the main character instead of having them explained in words--showin not telling. In "Witness" it is when the little Amish boy points to the picture of murderous bad cop Danny Glover in the police station and Harrison Ford covers the pointing finger to hide it. In "The Truman Show" it is Truman and the camera spinning in circles three times in a revolving door with the outside world seen through and reflected in the glass but anreachable to him--a brilliantly existential moment completely connected to its visual as the lead character begins to suspect that his world is a great falsehood and nothing is as it appears. This is "silent movie" storytelling that is pure cinema even in films that have plenty of dialogue elsewhere.
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#19 Andy Sparaco SOC

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Posted 25 December 2005 - 10:31 PM

"Mon Oncle" is a brilliant work and one that tickles me every time I watch it, but I recently had a chance to see Tati's "Playtime" in 70mm at NYC's Lincoln Center and it is a work on a higher level. Magnificent.



What a treat! Do you know if it will tour? Have to check the "tativille" web site.
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#20 Sam Wells

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Posted 25 December 2005 - 10:33 PM

Reading the actual question again, I probably need to strike "The Silence" from my list as the dialogue certainly is required to move the story along.


Eraserhead isn't a silent film either. Did you list it because it operates that way, or did you forget ?
I'm genuinely curious about this (pop cine psychology or something !)

Good call, whoever it wa, on Dovzhenko; altho I've never seen Arsenal unfortunately. Earth is good, and Zvenigora fascinating.

More later on this maybe, I could go on about this subject :)

-Sam
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