Valuable Aspects in the History of Cinema Appear Throughout the Years

        There were many movies shown in class this semester that I believe were valuable in the context of the history of cinema. Three films that stick out the most in my mind are Birth of a Nation, Greed, and Rashômon. However, there are a few films shown this semester that I believe were of least value to the history of the cinema. These films would include Duck Soup and Monty Python.

        First of all, the 1915 film, Birth of a Nation, directed by D.W. Griffith made a large impact in cinematic history. Birth of a Nation was based on the book, The Clansman. The film showed new ways to film and edit motion pictures. In addition to showing great historical aspects of importance, Griffith's film also had a large impact and significance in American culture. Birth of a Nation was considered the first great historical epic. The film was also named as the highest grossing silent film in history. In addition to its plot containing a lot of significant issues in American history, it also was responsible for the resurrection of the Ku Klux Klan.

        The film that I believed had the most value to the history of the cinema was Erich von Stroheim's 1924 version of the story Greed. Von Stroheim adapted his movie from the novel Mc Teague. Greed is a legendary Hollywood film. There were many aspects used in Greed that had not been used in film beforehand. A main aspect was the locations used for shooting parts of the film. Von Stroheim wanted his film to be as closely similar to the original novel as he could get. Therefore, he wanted to film some scenes in San Francisco. Von Stroheim also wanted to film in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Shooting on location was unheard of during these times. Shooting in the Sierra Nevada Mountains made it especially hard because of the harsh weather conditions. The crew had to protect the equipment and film from being destroyed in the windy and high climate weather.

        Another important and valuable aspect of the silent film Greed was its length. Originally, the film was almost nine hours long. Von Stroheim made the film this length of time because he wanted his movie to be as close to the original novel as possible. However, the production company believed a film of such great length would not do well with audiences. Therefore, against Von Stroheim's will, the company cut the film down to a two-and-a-half hour film. Most of the remaining footage is believed to be lost, therefore, dubbing Greed as the most famous "lost" film in Hollywood.

        The third most valuable film to the history of the cinema was Rashômon. Rashômon is a Japanese film directed by Akira Kurosawa in 1950. Kurosawa's film was very influential throughout the world, but had less impact in its home country of Japan. This film contributed many new aspects to the cinematography in film. The Japanese movie introduced cinematography techniques such as shooting directly into the sunlight. This technique reflected the sunlight onto the actor's faces, making it look as if the sunlight was shining through the tree branches. Another technique that was used was the tinting of the water that was used for the rain drops. Another technique used was the use of close-ups to emphasize emotion between characters. This technique was used very often in silent films. Kurosawa liked using this technique because he himself was a huge fan of silent film. Additional techniques used were contrasting camera shots, and using the camera as an important role in showing the symbolism of the film.

        Rashômon has had great influence and impact on American film makers. Examples of films that used aspects from Rashômon are Courage Under Fire and Hoodwinked.

        In conclusion, there were many films shown in class this semester that had great value to the history of the cinema. However, three films that I believe had the most value were D.W. Griffith's 1915 film, Birth of a Nation, Erich von Stroheim's 1924 film, Greed, and Akira Kurosawa's 1950 Japanese film, Rashômon.

Ashley Davis

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