Lillian Gish

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Way Down East Review

The Film Society of Lincoln Center presided over an emotional encounter with the ancients when an archival print of D. W. Griffith's Way Down East from The Museum of Modern Art was screened at The Walter Reade Theater to a well attended collection of grey-haired elders, solo middle-aged cinephiles, and young city-trash couples out to buy an outré thrill. One thing the group had in common was that none of the people present were alive when Griffith's film was originally released in 1920.

This hoary melodrama was Griffith's last big hit and, in fact, his biggest moneymaker since the epochal The Birth of a Nation, the film so much of a bonanza for Griffith that it kept his independent Mamaroneck studios running through the several lean years of box office failures that followed Way Down East.

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Intolerance Review

David Wark Griffith was in many ways the first film director -- a master craftsman who invented modern film editing and camerawork and originated many (most?) of the cinematic devices used today. His silent epics are lavish, impressive spectacles. Griffith's films suffer less from the technical limitations of silent movies than from their ideology-addled screenplays and crudely rendered morals which are half-lost in confusing action and broad humor. In short, Griffith's films have pretty much the same flaws as a lot of Hollywood movies today.

Intolerance was Griffith's follow-up to The Birth of a Nation, the first important commercial motion picture. Nation cost $100,000 and made ten times that, and was praised by President Woodrow Wilson, among others. But the movie's endorsements of segregation and the Ku Klux Klan received some criticism (go figure). Like so many egoistic auteurs after him, Griffith took the criticism badly while letting the praise go to his head. Griffith blew a Titanic budget (for the time) making Intolerance, a self-indulgent, confusing ten reels about man's inhumanity to his fellow man. If Birth of a Nation was the first blockbuster (and the birth of the movie industry, in fact), Intolerance was the first Ishtar -- i.e., the first reminder that when it comes to making art or even entertaining the public, Hollywood doesn't have all the answers.

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The Night Of The Hunter Review

Until I saw The Night of the Hunter, it had been a long time since I had gasped while watching a movie. Forget The Others and The Deep End (which veered toward strained dramatics), The Night of the Hunter is by far the scariest movie I've seen so far this year. Even though the movie is nearly 50 years old and there's a not drop of blood to be seen.

Luckily, The Night of the Hunter, Charles Laughton's first and final directing gig, has been restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive and is being re-released in October 2001. So, there's still plenty of time to spill your popcorn all over the place.

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Duel In The Sun Review

Condemned as indecent after its release, Duel in the Sun is a rare western, in the vein of Unforgiven, that upsets the traditional white hat/black hat baloney common to its genre. The story of two wealthy Texas brothers (Joseph Cotten and Gregory Peck) who fall for dark beauty Pearl (Jennifer Jones), what may be film's first booty call (courtesy of Peck's scoundrel) is the real highlight here, as is the story of family infighting and Lionel Barrymore's deliciously evil patriarch.
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