The utopia of cinema as a universal language, an art form reaching every corner of the world now lies broken in pieces. Birth of a Nation, after first seeming like a blessing, would become the director's curse, who would spend the rest of his career correcting his past sins. The world is a tragedy, there are no more deus ex machinas. Lillian and David have never been so miserable.
Excellent Gish, solid Griffith. Griffith made films I consider to be tech better (Way Down East, Intolerance) but one cant really deny this is probably his most moving, given the subject matter of domestic violence and reevaluating one's faith. Gish gives perhaps her best performance outside of The Wind, which is an unbelievable film. Griffith made some undeniable early classics, best American silent director? 4.5
The racial stereotypes are tough to look at, but this is a different film made in a different time. Lillian Gish may be the best silent actresses of all time, her portrayal of battered and broken Lucy is gut wrenching, her forced smile is hollow and haunting. Really great flick, for a 70 minute film you have no excuse to not see it.
Lillian Gish moved me, even though it's probably a little over the top to let a teenage character walk around like a battered 65-year-old. This is a very well-intentioned piece, progressive for its day, in spite of the casting of a white actor for the Chinese protagonist. Problem is, it takes 90 min. to tell a simple story for which 30 min. would have easily done. Fine pacing in the exposition.
I don't see the racism in here: it was the Yellow peril years, and Griffith made the good be represented by the chinese character (what's the problem in the actor beeing not-asian?). It's quite brutal, and sweet, and like always is a delight watch Gish in this type of characters.
This melodrama is supposed to redeem the racist bigot Griffith??? His "Yellowman" character, he also refers to as a "chink", or affectionately, "Chinky". Played by a white actor, of course. Another white actor, face covered in shoe polish, adds a bit more color to his racial stereotypes. Why couldn't he at least hire real Black or Chinese people to realize his racist images? I love silent cinema but not Griffith.
Cinematography by G. W. Bitzer. "Desire" list: It may seem strange that before one of the cinematic summits of the last century and one of the great Lillian Gish peaks, i come to pick it via Richard Barthlemess, but it is also the film in which he surpassed himself, a Hollywood figure of a Chinese who became an unique object-representation of the most absolute male poeticity.
To my mind, Griffith's vision of tragic romance hasn't been bettered in American cinema. He extracts so much genuine emotion out of a hoary concept and stagey mise en scene; the absolute sincerity of the players overwhelms the formal stiffness and Griffithian sentimentality. There are no jerked tears, but lots of genuine ones. Only the modern sequence in Intolerance matches this.
A lovely film, lyrical and imperfect. Some of the acting is campy, and casting a white man as the Asian hero is a cringe-worthy artifact of 1919. But Richard Barthelmess gives a silent performance for all time, capturing a gentle soul (of any race or none at all) getting worn down. And if the interracial romance is toned down from the source material, the idea is still presented in an empathetic light. Baby steps.