Sunday, 18 January 2009

Sunday Night is.. Lilian Gish, The Wind

The Wind, 1928. The music, by Carl Davis, is - and I rarely use such terms - mindblowing. The images are romantic poetry, the sublime in terms of film. The train journey with which it begins reminds of Jarmusch's marvellous Dead Man, a 1995 Johnny Depp movie. I take the following from the information provided by the The Jew of Malta (he or she has been reading Christopher Marlowe) who put it up on YouTube along with other great silents.

"This elemental drama plays like a darker version of The Gold Rush, in which the continual incursion of the natural world externalises repressed anxieties and desires, rather than facilitating comic ingenuity or conventional pathos. To an extent, these anxieties centre on the sexual life of the protagonist (Lillian Gish) who, upon arriving in the country, is almost immediately forced to choose between three questionable suitors. Fortunately, Sjöström directs Gish so as to bring out her naturalistic proclivities - or, more accurately, deflects her melodramatic proclivities into the desert landscapes which form a backdrop to her performance. Shot on location in the Mojave, these are the centrepiece of the film, engulfing the characters in a manner that was to be literalised in the original conclusion, but was tactically omitted - much to Sjöström and the cast's dismay. The wind sequences are particularly astounding, produced by eight aeroplane propellors that allow Gish to perform her trademark swoon and collapse on an entirely realistic pretext. At the same time, this desert-based drama is prevented from reaching the status of a proto-Western by the conspicuous absence of horizons, which reduces vast expanses to small wind-, sand- and night-bound units, thereby speaking to those national anxieties figured in the false dichotomy between Letty's claustrophobic cabin and the outdoors or, more generally, between the banality and grandeur of America." - Billy Stevenson.

There is often more elemental power in early silents than in many later, technically sophisticated, films. Despite the frequent resort to melodrama it is sheer driving vision that carries them. Characterisation is rudimentary, as perhaps it has to be without dialogue and the spoken word. Melodrama has a dream-dimension. As in dreams, persons and objects loom and drift and blow about our sleeping faculties. We feel their vast presences.


Dubois said...

Just what I needed after a horrible day of data-inputting.

I watched all 9 minutes and went and missed the Steven Gerrard interview just now on Setanta.
Always the sign of a good hat when it stays on in the wind.

Now for Torres and Keane (never did rate Keane really though but I see he is starting tonight).

George S said...

It's 0-0 as I write... almost half-time

Dubois said...

Such was Keane's impact on the game I did not notice him on the pitch and wondered if he had been injured in the warm up. I see from papers this morning that he did play...

George S said...

The answer must be a hat pin. (That's to The Wind.)

The answer to Keane eludes me. Mind you, they say the same of Berbatov. And then the ghost materialises and he scores. I read that, statistically, he covers more blades of grass than anyone else in the team. He is quite tall, of course, and when he lies down it must take up a decent area.

You won't remember Martin Peters, but it often used to be said of him that he 'ghosted in' and that he was 'ten years ahead of his time'.

Maybe that's what Keane is. You can never actually spot him in time because he is ahead of it.