Jumat, 03 Juni 2011

Josef von Sternberg - The Salvation Hunters (1925)

IMDb user comment:
A masterpiece; one of the greatest and most underrated silent films, 22 April 2011
Author: lambchopnixon from amsterdam

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A brilliant film, which should be ranked alongside the likes of Greed, The Big Parade, The Docks of New York, The Crowd, Sunrise, The General and The Strong Man as amongst the greatest silent films made in America. It won't be though as it is far too uncompromising in approach.

The Salvation Hunters is usually put down with the claim that it is pretentious. No wonder the likes of Charlie Chaplin were amazed by it however. The film is so advanced in conception. There are nonsensical claims that there is no development in the plot. This is one of The Salvation Hunter's great strengths. There is also the claim that the film is naive. But then how much more naive was every other film?

The boy/man, girl and child leave one place of no hope to another where the hope is a trick. There is much waiting around on screen, and the effect is perfect, that of those stuck without hope or belief.

In the town, it is obvious that their 'host' is playing a waiting game. He will wait until their desperation leads them to offer the girl up as a prostitute. The man has to do no more than be in the vicinity as hunger takes its toll. And the waiting that the three endure as there is no hope for them - no job, so they just sit - is put across brilliantly. There is no more elucidation necessary. It is simply that it is not put over in an obvious way. She finally brings a man back even to where the boy/man and boy are as that's all she has, and the boy/man is so weak and cowardly that he can simply be disregarded.

The film is unswerving in its method that he is the dreamer but more than his dreams simply being unrealistic as in The Crowd, he is pathetic. She, on the other hand, sees the world as disgusting and is never proved wrong.

The intertitles complement the (lack of) action perfectly, going deeper than being there to move the plot along. They were dashed off beautifully by von Sternberg though his far more cautious, not to say, prickly, later self would - of course - be embarrassed by them.

This is a wonderfully sophisticated film in it's lack of any need for 'development' or 'resolution'. There is no happy ending, only a possibility of hope, easily missed by anyone needing less in the way of subtlety.

It is unbelievable that psychological truths can be banned by some from films that show ugly circumstances without the frills, in comparison to the likes of Sunrise, in which it is allowed due to looking lovely and employing sophisticated camera-work. And seen as flawed because it's done by a director without money, and must then be bad rather than even more impressive than it already is.

It ends with an extended fight scene. There is nothing glamorous about it. It is simply to show that they can fight back after all. It needs to be brutal and out of control to not be enjoyed as shallow, lowest common denominator entertainment. It is necessarily 'nasty' and powerful because of it. Salvation Hunters (J Von Sternberg, 1925) Vhsrip Vose.avi


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