Sunday, March 29, 2015

#554: Way Down East

Directed by: D.W. GRIFFITH
1920, TSPDT Rank #994

D.W. Griffith went all-out on this film - which must have been one of the first epic modern melodramas - making a huge film which did not rely on historical spectacle or grandiose battle scenes to add to its impact. And despite its oddly-timed comic interludes with bumbling caricatures of simple-minded Easterners, this film, like Griffith's other major works, remains quite powerful and compelling today, and Griffith's attempts to continually push the envelope of cinematic technique are plentiful throughout. Never one for subtlety, Griffith crafts an undeniably moving depiction of the shame which women have often endured as a result of their mistreatment by dishonest men, and drives his point home with the support of Lillian Gish's tour-de-force of a performance. The film definitely serves as a window into what gender relations were like in the early 20th century, making the film historically relevant today on a number of different levels, as well as being considerably more watchable than the average film of its era due to Griffith's innovative filmmaking style.

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