The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Sunday, February 01, 2009
FINISHING THE EIGHTS: We've listed the best films of
1998, 1988, 1978, 1968, 1958, 1948, and 1938. Time for the last stop of the tour.

The Motion Picure Academy split its Best Picture award for "1927-1928" between two movies released in 1927, and it gave its "1928-1929" prize to a film from 1929. So it never did get around to honoring 1928, a fine year for silent clowns, Soviet propaganda, and Poe adaptations:

1. There It Is
Written and directed by Charley Bowers and Harold L. Muller

One of the strangest, funniest comedies of the '20s, or of any decade.

2. The Fall of the House of Usher
Directed by Jean Epstein
Written by Epstein and Luis Buñuel, from a story by Edgar Allan Poe

European surrealists do Poe.

3. The Fall of the House of Usher
Directed by James Sibley Watson and Melville Webber
Written by Watson and Webber, from a story by Edgar Allan Poe

The American version. Briefer and even more dreamlike than the French effort.

4. Speedy
Directed by Ted Wilde
Written by Al Boasberg, Albert DeMond, John Grey, Jay Howe, Lex Neal, Howard Emmett Rogers, and Paul Girard Smith, from a story by Grey, Howe, Neal, and Rogers

Baseball-crazy Harold Lloyd drives New York's last horse-drawn trolley. Is it possible to be nostalgic for another generation's nostalgia?

5. The Passion of Joan of Arc
Directed by Carl Dreyer
Written by Dreyer and Joseph Delteil

I'll steal from Ebert: "There is no scenery here, aside from walls and arches. Nothing was put in to look pretty. You do not leave discussing the costumes (although they are all authentic). The emphasis on the faces insists that these very people did what they did. Dreyer strips the church court of its ritual and righteousness and betrays its members as fleshy hypocrites in the pay of the British; their narrow eyes and mean mouths assault Joan's sanctity."

6. The Seashell and the Clergyman
Directed by Germaine Dulac
Written by Antonin Artaud

The movie that produced the British Board of Film Censors' most infamous judgment: "This film is so cryptic as to be almost meaningless. If there is a meaning, it is doubtless objectionable."

7. Arsenal
Written and directed by Aleksandr Dovzhenko

It's supposed to be communist propaganda, but Dovzhenko, as always, has a more complicated political agenda. This was early in Stalin's reign, when it was still possible to get away with this.

8. October
Directed by Sergei M. Eisenstein with Grigori Aleksandrov
Written by Eisenstein and Aleksandrov, from a book by John Reed

Eisenstein, on the other hand, was a committed Bolshevik. But he ran into trouble with the Soviet authorities anyway: The aesthetic police didn't approve of his riveting montages—i.e., the reason we watch the picture today.

9. Steamboat Bill, Jr.
Directed by Buster Keaton and Charles Reisner
Written by Keaton and Carl Harbaugh

Keaton's last comedy before his deadly move to MGM.

10. The Wind
Directed by Victor Sjöström
Written by Frances Marion, from a novel by Dorothy Scarborough

One of the bleakest westerns ever made.

posted by Jesse 5:01 PM
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