Saturday, September 19, 2009

07. Broken Blossoms (1919)

Running Time: 90 minutes
Directed By: D.W. Griffith
Written By: Thomas Burke, D.W. Griffith
Main Cast: Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess, Donald Crisp


When I was finished watching this movie, I stepped outside, lit a cigarette, and actually tried to find something wrong with this movie. I have previously watched two very boring, difficult to sit through Griffith films, and was not looking forward to watching a third. Thought, at only ninety minutes, I knew it would probably be much easier to get through than previous efforts. I sat there thinking of anything I could think of to nitpick at this film and found absolutely nothing wrong with it.

Our story begins in China, as a young man (played beautifully by Richard Barthelmess) known in the movie only as, The Yellow Man, is getting ready for a journey "across the seas" to teach the Anglo-Saxons the ways of the Buddha, the ways of peace, instead of violence. He winds up in the town of Limehouse in England, and with his original motives going unplanned. Instead, while in England, he owns a small shop and keeps to himself.

Enter Lucy Burrows (Lillian Gish, the Samuel L. Jackson to Griffith's Quentin Tarantino, if you will, to put it in modern terms) and her drunk, child abusing, boxing father, Battling Burrows. Lucy, it seems, can do no right in his eyes, cowering in fear at every move she makes, making sure she talks and does everything her father approves of, to avoid a beating with his dreaded whip.

One day after Battling gives her a good beating, she runs from the house in fear and ends up passing out inside The Yellow Man's shop. The Yellow Man with his peaceful ways and kind heart takes her in, makes her a bed, gives her a robe and treats her like a queen. A treatment that is completely foreign to Lucy. Everything is going swimmingly until one of Battling's friends discovers Lucy staying in the upstairs of the Yellow Man's shop. He of course relays the news to Battling, and after a very entertaining boxing match, film wise, Battling storms from the ring and straight to the Yellow Man's shop, giving Lucy the worst beating he's ever given her, even chasing her home and finding her hiding in a closet. With the use of an axe he busts through the door (think Jack Torrance in The Shining) and uses the whip to finish Lucy off.

I believe I've truly realized the definition of a true, great silent film. It's when you don't recognize the music or the title cards, or when you don't realize that, yes, the actor's mouth's are moving but no words are coming out. It's when you are blind to all these elements and yet you still feel the passion, the love, the anger and the sadness oozing out of these characters, through the screen and right into you. This movie did that for me and I'll always remember it for that. Even if the ability to record voices was invented at this time, I think the actor's talking could've only decreased the absolute beauty of this film. It plays better when you just watch and realize the horror, and yet at the same time, the beauty that is unfolding before your eyes. Broken Blossoms is a great film and any ill words I've voiced towards D.W. Griffith are hereby retracted.

RATING: 10/10 This movie deserves to be given the full monty of ratings. Unquestionably the best film I've seen thus far and it's gonna be hard to top it.

NEXT UP: Way Down East...More Griffith...and for the first time, I look forward to it.

September 19, 2009 5:12am

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great movie, I may have to check it out!


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