1928 semi-silent romance

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A lonely guy and a lonely girl meet and spend a romantic day together at Coney Island. However, when disaster strikes, they become separated, and they realize they forgot to get each other's cell numbers.

"I'm so tired of being alone that I can't stand my own company."

Been there, Jim.

This was at the threshold between silent cinema and talkies, so director Pal Fejos decided just to go with both. That, I believe, was a bit of a mistake. The experiments with sound effects are slightly awkward but work fine and give this some charm, but when the spoken dialogue comes in, it's embarrassing. What makes it worse is that the characters are given some awful things to say. Like, "You found your little lamb." And yes, it's obviously the guy who says that. I'm also fairly positive that a real woman--as opposed to an actress pretending to be a real woman--would have dumped this guy after his third "Gee." This works best at the beginning, juxtaposing the two leads at work and living their lonely little lives, and it works most impressively because there are almost a complete lack of title cards. Glenn Tryon and Barbara Kent, with the help of typical 1920's sentimentality, are perfect pictures of loneliness. Their lives are actually so sad that you figure this movie will either end with the couple being together or some sort of suicide scenario.

The most interesting thing about this is Fejos's use of special effects. Splashes of color, lots of double exposure, an impressive amount of extras and confetti, quick-shot montage, a camera that might move more than in anything else from the silent era that I've seen. It doesn't all work--listen to that repetitive, grating whistling for the wind during a storm--but it does keep things interesting even when the story's started to drag.

Some questions: Can you really be arrested for "picking up girls"?

Check it out if you're a fan of romantic comedies from this era.

No comments: