Tuesday, March 25, 2014

268 of 1001 Movies: The Docks of New York (1928)

Somehow I missed that The Docks of New York was a silent movie when I rented it. It's probably one of the better silent movies I've seen though, directed by Josef Von Sternberg. The movie is visually well shot even for what they were using at the time, but most impressive of all is how the setting of this movie captures the 20's so well. You aren't watching a movie about the 20's, you're watching a movie shot in that time, and in that time. It makes it that much more interesting, especially with leads like Betty Compson.

Summary: Bill Roberts is a worker on the docks who finds a woman, Mae, trying to commit suicide. He rushes in to save her from drowning, but not only does he save a woman, but he also finds that his life is about to change. It makes it that much harder to go back to work when he knows that he now has Mae, but when circumstances threaten to take her away from him again he might be willing to give it all up to be with her.

Acting: To be honest, it's much more difficult for me to evaluate silent film acting than well talking acting. Silent films relied a lot more on conveying feelings, and most of the time they could be quite over done, but I think mostly to keep it interesting. It can get pretty boring if everyone looks expressionless while being filmed. Betty Compson is Mae, and I have to say a great cast and lead for a silent film. She has a look that just pulls you in to the movie. Not only that but I felt she conveyed just the right amount of emotions needed for her role. George Bancroft is less of a stand out as Bill though, and honestly I don't even know why his name is bigger and bolder than the actual movie title on the movie poster. While he wasn't bad, he certainly didn't hold a candle to Compson.

Filming: This movie has a lot of pretty captures. Plus, they blend a lot of the city scenes with this foggy appearance, and the just right lighting to make it more appealing for the viewer. I also though the added smoke from the cigarette Mae was often smoking gave her just the right amount of personality. All of these shots work together and they create an interesting atmosphere that is hard to forget once you walk away from this silent movie.

Plot: The plot is very simple to follow, which honestly with a silent movie is great. The less plot you have to write out in titles during the movie the better off you are. It keeps the dialogue of the characters they choose to convey with titles a lot smoother sailing. I thought it was great how they capture the accent of the characters just through the writing though, and while I'm still not a huge fan of silent films I think it's great how they at least get you interested in what will become of the romance and Mae by the end of the movie.

The Docks of New York is definitely a treasure as far as silent films. I can't say it has sold me on enjoying them, but it shows that just because the technology wasn't available then that you can't have a good looking film to shoot with the time. The setting is beautifully captured, and they do a great job at conveying the characters.

Rating 7 of 10.

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