The Most and Least Valuable

         There are a couple of movies shown this semester that I feel were very valuable to me in the context of the history of the cinema. The most valuable I think were Birth of a Nation and Citizen Kane. However, Closely Watched Trains and Un chien andalou were the least valuable in this context.

         D. W. Griffith’s 1915 Birth of a Nation was not a film that I enjoyed at all. I do feel like it should be recognized for its importance to cinema. It was one of the first films ever. It was also a groundbreaking, if controversial movie. It was possible one of Hollywood’s first epics, running at nearly three hours long. Some of the camera techniques used, while not as awe-inspiring today, were first being used in this film. Birth of a Nation may have had an unpopular viewpoint of the Civil War but its importance should not be ignored.

         Another important film shown in class was Orson Welles’s 1941 Citizen Kane. There is a reason this movie is still highly regarded as a classic story today, even if it wan not that popular on its initial release. Like Birth of a Nation, this movie used several new and innovative camera methods. One famous shot was the one in which the camera goes over a sign, to the top of the roof, and down through the window to show the conversation happening below. This all seemed to happen in one take.

         UnlikeBirth of a Nation, Citizen Kane also had a well-done story going for it as well. Charles Foster Kane, thrust into a world he wanted no part of, dies. A reporter is sent out to discover the meaning of his last word: “Rosebud.” What follows are several accounts of the kind of man Kane was turning out to be, as people who used to be close to him do not have a high opinion anymore. What “Rosebud” turns out to be can be interpreted to mean a variety of things that is left open for the viewer to decide.

         I should probably also mention that Closely Watched Trains is not a film I felt had any value in regards to the history of cinema. It was not enjoyable, and cinematically had nothing new or inventive to showcase. The story itself was slow moving with nothing really happening in the course of the movie. I do not feel as though the movie was very important at all and could have done without watching it.

         Another film that is not cinematically valuable, even though it was entertaining, was not really a film. Un chien andalou (An Andalusian Dog) (1929), directed by Luis Buñuel and designed by Salvador Dali, is nothing but bizarre shock value thrown onto the screen and has not a shred of importance. Although I still feel it should be shown for history’s sake, I do not think it had much influence on the film world.

Joseph Stone

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