Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Vanished world

TCM was showing von Stroheim's version of "The Merry Widow" this morning. I watched a bit of it. I wish I could have watched it all.

The movie was made in 1925. It's a silent movie, and the silent movies TCM shows, they play pipe-organ music reminiscent of what you'd have heard in the movie palaces of the day.

I find silent movies fascinating. (And it seems that they're always on at the exact time I DON'T have time to sit and watch). They seem like such a vanished world...and yet, they were made less than 100 years ago.

The acting is done differently - it's more exaggerated, by necessity, because most of the story needs to be conveyed by gesture. There are occasional title cards with dialog (this movie seemed to have them more frequently than some silent movies I've seen), but mostly, the actors' actions have to carry the story.

As always in older movies, I also find myself looking intently at the clothes and the backgrounds and the furniture and seeing how things were different. I find that kind of thing really interesting, the whole little window into "how did people live then"

Also, these movies were made before the Hayes code, so they show things movies a few years later couldn't. (The on-screen information for this movie referred to it as a "risque" version, but really, from what I saw, there was nothing risque by modern standards. Or maybe it was the idea that here was a woman who married first out of spite, and then, after being widowed, was happy to flirt and be coy and all that...and the sex was implied. I didn't see enough of the movie to be sure)

It makes me wonder...what would movies be like today if sound had never been developed? What kind of constraints do not having sound place on what stories you can tell and how you can tell them? Or what would have happened if the Hayes code had never been developed?

I don't know much about movies. I enjoy watching some of the old ones on TCM. If I had more time, I'd try to learn more about them.

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