Last night, I watched Metropolis, Fritz Lang’s 1920 silent film about a dystopian society. I’ve not soaked in the moisturizing dish liquid of Cinema, but I have watched a couple of silent films in my time, which puts me ahead of most people. These films include:
- The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. When I was young, I dated a girl who took a film appreciation class, which meant that we got to watch important films. This particular item was a high example of German surrealism or expressionism or something like that. Marinated cinematistes (I just made that word up. Like it?) could better explain its importance. I remember quite a bit from the film, though, which means it made more of an impression on me than most films with Jason Statham and/or Matt Damon in them. And, friends, we watched this film before Netflix existed, which probably meant we had to go to the old Bijou movie rental place up in University City or reserve it through Blockbuster or something.
- Juno and the Paycock (where paycock is British for peacock–couldn’t they just have put an extraneous U in it and left it at that?). An old Alfred Hitchcock film, but without crime in it. I bought a boxed set of Hitchcock films about ten years ago and started watching them. You know what boxed set means, don’t you? It means old films we couldn’t sell standing alone.
- The Lodger, a film sort of loosely based on Jack the Ripper, wherein there’s a serial killer terrorizing London (in 1927). A strange lodger moves into a boarding house and might be the killer. This film is most notable because it starred June Tripp.
- The Ring, a boxing picture, also in the Alfred Hitchcock boxed set. Notable because it gave me a nickname I used to use on my second child. You know, I think I watched these last two films when he was a newborn because I could watch them with the television on mute. Huh, I just remembered that as I was typing.
- Metropolis. You don’t have to be a cinematiste to recognize that this film was seminal in framing science fiction films for decades after it. Or at least see that certain tropes you see in modern films existed eighty years ago. The text frames refer to robots, a term that was only seven years old at that time, but it must have gained enough currency to be in the popular mind by then. As I watched, it occurred to me that this was filmed at the time when H.P. Lovecraft was writing, and I can see shared elements–descending staircases, catacombs, and so on. An interesting enough film.
So that’s three British silent films and two German ones. I don’t know if I’ve seen an American one. I suppose I should sit down and watch some Charlie Chaplin or something to round out my silent film bona fides, but I’m a modern man, and I really need to be in the right mood for a silent film. I don’t get that many film-length stretches of time, and when I do, I’m inclined to watch something I’ve seen a million times before and love or a comedy or action flick I own and have yet to watch before I’m inclined to broaden my mind.
But if I happen upon one at a garage sale, I’ll pick it up and have it on hand in case the mood strikes me again sometime in 2015.