A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Outlaw and His Wife (Victor Sjöström, 1918)

The Outlaw and His Wife is a standard domestic melodrama made memorable by fine performances under the restrained direction of Victor Sjöström, who doesn't allow the usual stagy gesticulations that contemporary viewers often find ludicrous in silent films. Sjöström himself gives a fine performance in the role of the outlaw, Ejvind, who in the middle of a severe famine stole a sheep to feed his family and had to flee after breaking out of jail. He appears one day in a small Icelandic village under the assumed name Kári, and soon wins the heart of Halla (Edith Erastoff), a widow who runs a prosperous farm. Halla's brother-in-law, Björn (Nils Aréhn), also has designs on Halla, and when he discovers that Kári is a wanted man, Ejvind is forced to become a fugitive. Halla gives up everything to join him, and when we see them again they are living happily in the mountains with their small daughter. They are joined by Arnes (John Ekman), who is also on the run, but when Arnes begins to lust after Halla, trouble brews, compounded by the fact that Björn has never relinquished his pursuit of the couple. The film's story, based on a play by Jóhan Sigurjónsson, gains depth from the wild natural setting -- northern Sweden posing as Iceland -- in which the strong simple emotions of the tale seem integral. Sjöström makes the most of the mountain scenery, the waterfalls and hot springs, which are well-photographed by Julius Jaenzon. Sjöström did his own stunt work in a particularly hazardous scene in which Ejvind dangles on a rope from a cliff.