Monday, May 5, 2008

Kevin Brownlow Speaks on "Napoleon" (1927) and D. W. Griffith's Legacy

Silver Screen Oasis had Kevin Brownlow as a guest on their message boards (from London) and the discussion was so interesting and chock full of information that I printed the whole thing out for future reference!

First of all Brownlow says on the long awaited DVD release of Abel Gance's Napoleon (1927) that "I think a compromise has been reached" between the parties involved with the two warring sides of the films' score. I really hope this is true— it's easily one of the few great masterpieces yet to be released on DVD.

Brownlow takes on D. W. Griffith. He notes that Griffith made some bad films indicating One Exciting Night, Dream Street, and Scarlet Days. I've seen all three of these Griffiths (believe it or not) and they are definitely his worst; Scarlet Days was a particular disappointment because it's really hard to find (Griffith's only western feature). Brownlow discusses the maligned Birth of a Nation. He acknowledges it's groundbreaking techniques and also it's overt racism ("... in the second half you get the hair-raising racism"). His comments on it should be read completely if you're interested. He notes something that I've never heard before— that Griffith made a film called Rose of Kentucky, in which the KKK were the villains and an African-American boy was the hero. According to, the survival status of this 1911 film is unknown.

Browlow mentions a silent film out on DVD that I've been meaning to catch up with: "I just showed some silents in Ireland and while the audience loved them all, they were particularly impressed by an almost-forgotten French silent called Children's Faces (Visages D'Enfant). Highly recommended; one of the finest films about children..." Well this has now been bumped up on my list of films-to-see. (Brownlow gives examples of many other obscure silents he feels are masterpieces as well...)

Here's a link to the boards.

No comments: