Daily Archives: April 4, 2001

Greed

Erich von Stroheim’s 1924 silent classic is more famous for its original eight-hour version than for this 88-minute cut that MGM carved out of it (though apparently there were several prerelease versions, which Stroheim screened privately for separate groups). The studio junked the rest of the footage, and apart from a reconstruction cobbled together recently with production stills and the shooting script, the release version is all that remains today. But even in its butchered state this is one of Stroheim’s greatest films, a passionate adaptation of Frank Norris’s great naturalist novel McTeague in which a slow-witted dentist (Gibson Gowland) and the neurotic woman he marries (the great ZaSu Pitts) are ultimately destroyed by having won a lottery. Stroheim respected the story enough to extend it imaginatively as well as translate it into cinematic terms, and he filmed exclusively on location (mainly San Francisco, Oakland, and Death Valley). Greed remains one of the most modern of silent films, anticipating Citizen Kane in its deep-focus compositions and Jean Renoir in the emotional complexity of its tragic humanism. Jean Hersholt costars. Essential viewing. (JR)… Read more »

Just Visiting

An American remake of the enormously popular 1993 French farce Les visiteurs, with the same lead actors (Jean Reno and Christian Clavier), the same producers, two of the same writers (Clavier and Jean-Marie Poire), and the same director (Jean-Marie Gaubert). I haven’t seen the original, and this mishmashwhich has little to offer apart from the charm of Christina Applegate and some Chicago locationsdoesn’t make me want to. A medieval count and his servant are magically transported to a Chicago museum; the movie tries very hard to be as dumb as possible, but apart from its flurries of special effects at the beginning and end nothing is allowed to stretch, and genuine lightheartedness is at a premium. The scatological gags aren’t nearly as good as those in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. If you can track down Tarzan’s New York Adventure, which does a fine job with the same sort of comic conceits, check that out instead. With Malcolm McDowell, Matthew Ross, Tara Reid, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, and an awkward George Plimpton, who’s doing his best to seem dithering rather than simply inept. John Hughes did something or other with or on the script. 88 min. (JR)… Read more »