Thursday, June 10, 2010

100 years, 100 films 8: Raffles the Amateur Cracksman (1917)

I was beginning to lose hope in this pointless little experiment I'm conducting here. It was starting to seem like I was going to have to wade through a never ending stream of tedious shit, and that after all this was over, I would never want to watch another old movie again, as long as I lived. So it is with a huge sigh of relief that I declare that George Irving's Raffles the Amateur Cracksman is actually pretty good.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying it's a great film. But it was entertaining. There's something about John Barrymore that makes watching him really fun. He's a completely ridiculous actor - his wild shifts in facial expression and his bizarre outbursts mean that it is impossible to think of the character he's playing as anything approaching a real person. But at the same time, he's electric. He's acting so over the top that you just kind of let yourself go and enjoy it. It's almost as if he's playing a game with the audience - you know that he's brazenly scenery chewing, and he knows that you know he's brazenly scenery chewing, but he'll be damned if he'll crack first.

There were other enjoyable things about this movie as well. The pacing was quite brisk, and it was helped along by a camera that (for the time) is positively frenetic. The cinematography is rarely actually 'good', but it moves around so much that it doesn't really matter. This frenetic feeling is helped by the frankly bizarre overuse of interstitials. Normally, this would slow the pace of a film down do a deathly halt. But here, somehow, it seems to actually speed things up. It's helped by the fact that a lot of the interstitial artwork is surprisingly elaborate, but I think that the constant cuts back and forth between the text and the images add to the jittery, can't-sit-still quality of the film, leading to the impression of a decent pace.

No comments:

Post a Comment