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Quote of the day. Luc Moullet on D.W. Griffith

French New Wave filmmaker and critic Luc Moullet on D.W. Griffith's masterpiece _A Corner in Wheat_.

"This manner of working turns out to be quite original. For a contemporary, socio-economic and thus supposedly realistic subject, we find here a fable because the brevity of the work pushes Griffith to tell the story in a series of very concentrated acts. Reality and fable: between them, there is something that satisfies the public’s desire to be confronted with reality and that, at the same time, offers to them – condensed – every possible emotion. Several decades in advance, Griffith anticipates here the work of both Brecht and Angelopoulos."

—Luc Moullet on A Corner in the Wheat (1909) in Ah Yes! Griffith was a Marxist!, translated by Ted Fendt for LOLA

You completely missed the quotable. “The film is also the first masterpiece of militant cinema. Eisenstein dreamed of adapting Capital, but Griffith had already done it twenty years before with this film. While we often think of the Southern conservative of The Birth of a Nation (1915), Griffith is here, paradoxically, very close to Karl Marx. "
I didn’t miss that section; it’s an interesting conclusion but doesn’t stand by itself. The ideology is less interesting to me than Moullet’s discussion of the film’s form, which, anyway, is from where the ideology would originate.
Spot on choice to summarize Griffith’s leftist elegance in Corner of Wheat Daniel and even more surprising the combination of 3 fascinating innovators in their own “genre” fields in one single sentence. No surprise to be honest since Moullet’s own work is compiled of all sorts of anti-consumerist and anti-industrialist symbols, “real” fables contrasting the divisive inequalities between us human beings, themes describing the work of the aforementioned auteurs too.
I think form reflects ideology, not necessarily births it. Maybe it goes both ways. But I agree that the ideology is of less interest. I’m drawn to the creative leap of “A Corner in Wheat” being an adaptation (or logical extension) of Capital and Griffith being close to Marx.
Brecht, to Lukács (1938): “Realistic means: discovering the causal complexes of society / unmasking the prevailing view of things as the view of those who are in power / writing from the standpoint of the class which offers the broadest solutions for the pressing difficulties in which human society is caught up / emphasizing the element of development / making possible the concrete, and making possible abstraction from it.” Great article. Ted F’s translations are always a pleasure!
Seems a bit perverse to disentangle form and ideology in a political film that is intentionally structured to deliver a particular ideological message. And, I find Moullet’s writing characteristically overblown in its grand assertions. If he wants to bring Eisenstein into the conversation, its worth remembering his classic critique of Griffith’s montage: “The structure that is reflected in the concept of Griffith’s montage is the structure of bourgeois society…. And this society, perceived only as a contrast between the haves and the have-nots, is reflected in the consciousness of Griffith no deeper than the image of an intricate race between two parallel lines…. And, naturally, the montage concept of Griffith, as a primarily parallel montage, appears to be a copy of his dualistic picture of the world, running in two parallel lines of poor and rich towards some hypothetical “reconciliation” where… the parallel lines would cross, that is, in that infinity, just as inaccessible as that “reconciliation.”" (1944)
Thanks for that excerpt, David, I hadn’t know Eisenstein wrote on Griffith.
It’s also worth remembering that Eisenstein cut his teeth re-editing Griffith films numerous times over. Perhaps Griffithian cross-cutting contained the seeds of Eisenstinian montage in all its various theoretical forms.

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