Sisif, a locomotive engineer, saves Norma, an infant girl, from a train wreck and raises her as his adopted daughter. As she grows up, she falls in love with Sisif’s son, who she thinks is her brother, leading to a complex love triangle…
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Lust scorns frontiers. Watching the adult man's Circean degradation from the initial knightly Samaritan who rescues a girl from a train crash to his subsequent crush on her pubescently elongated legs, I was hell-bent (like locomotives in Part 1) to call it quits. But the "funicular-speed" slowdown in Part 2, its Bergfilm overtones (the first mountain film ever made coincidentally depicted a Mont Blanc ascent), lead's
OMG I've had relationships that seemed shorter than this film. Despite some fine examples of editorial technique during some sequences the film , for so slight a plot, goes on forever. Also not assisted by the mugging of lead Severin Mars. To think this 4 1/2 glacier was once near 9 hours is a staggering thought. The moments of brilliance do not compensate for the whole. The entire final hour is superfluous.
It wasn't until about 160 minutes in did the story finally grip me. Why did I stay for such a length when the film is already 273 minutes long? Because the filmmaking here is excellent, beginning to end. I can't imagine anyone who loves the art of the places cinema can take you not liking it. I was delighted to stay just to admire the craft, but the final hour truly repaid me with a heartbreaking finale.
The use of (partly extremely fast) cuts and montage to build up tension and to suggest increasing velocity is still marvellous. Also Gance's use of light and shadow, his way of showing the faces, is terrific. Robert Israel's music for the restored version is very good and founded on late romantic and early modern music, using elements from Arthur Honeggers "Pacific 231" to illustrate the train sequences.
Une merveille du 7eme Art, inoubliable, géniale et unique, dont hélas la plupart des (rares) projections sont tronquées, raccourcies, amputées. Une excellente version DVD, d'une durée de 5 heures 05, est désormais disponible, projetée au Festival du Film Muet de Pordenone...
This is one of the reasons of my passion for cinema. 273 minutes, and not a single one was in vain, gance is one of the best directors of all time, one of my major inspirations, can't even describe how this man saw cinema in his age.