Broken Blossoms or The Yellow Man and the Girl

1919 depressing movie

Rating: 18/20

Plot: The yellow man loves Buddha, and after watching some visiting sailors engage in fisticuffs on the streets, he becomes further convinced to travel east and share that fat dude's teachings. He arrives in London, has no luck getting the message out (probably because he's yellow), and ends up running a shop that sells things nobody would want. One day, boxer's daughter Lucy wanders past. She's got a hard life because her father's abusive. The yellow man falls for her and gets a chance to get close to her later in the movie.

What a beautiful little movie this is. Silent drama doesn't always connect with me. A lot of times, they're boring, brutally boring. And although this suffers a bit from the limitations and tendencies of typical films from this period, there's a lot here that seems years ahead of its time. Aside from all the technical stuff and the interracial romance, this is the earliest movie I've seen that's leaned so far over into tragedy and has an ending like this. The performances range from hammy and unnatural (see: Donald Crisp as Lucy's daddy) to controlled and touching and haunting (see: Gish). In between would be the yellow man played by Richard Barthelmess, a white man. The story Griffith is telling here is nothing new. It's simple, poetic and emotionally walloping but simple. There are way too many title cards used to push the story, a lot of them, even though have a literary quality, completely unnecessary. This works best when Griffith tells the story and creates the moods with images alone. This just jumped over one or two other movies to become my favorite film of the nineteen-teens.

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