Greed


Seeing as the front door of my house was barely able to open this morning, and I literally could not see my car, I didn't go into work today. It took literally hours to snow blow everything and dig out three cars that were buried. Everything is closed around here, even grocery stores. I'll have to post some pictures of how much my car and everything was buried, I've never seen anything like it! (Pictures will be coming tomorrow!) Chicago Public Schools haven't had a snow day since 1999, but they had today off and they also have Thursday off as well, since that's how bad everything has been.


After all of the shoveling and digging and snow blowing and freezing, I sat down to watch Greed, directed by Eric von Stroheim in 1924. I've never heard of this movie, but apparently it is very famous. Most of what I learned about it is from Ebert's essay. The titles before my copy of the movie told me that the original cut was an epic nine hours long. It was then edified down to 140, and all of the prints were lost and destroyed. Ebert said that this made “the missing seven hours of Greed have been called the Holy Grail of the cinema. Apparently they were destroyed to extract the silver nitrate used in their manufacture” (The Great Movies, 212).

The version that I was able to find to watch is not 140 minutes, though. “In the 1990's, an ambitious new approach was made by the film restorer Rick Schmidlin, who discovered a trove of original production stills and a copy of von Stroheim's long lost 330 page original shooting script. He has taken that material and edited it together with the surviving footage to produce a found-hour long version that is available on video” (The Great Movies, 212). This is the version that I had. The movie is, as far as I can tell, very rare and out of print at this point, either version of it. The only place that I saw that had it to rent was Facets in Chicago.

Despite how hard it is to find this movie, and how long the version I had is, I really liked it. I mean, no internet and cable can sometimes render you desperate for entertainment, and I'm not sure I would have been able to focus on it as well if I had worked all day. Even so, I liked it. It felt long but the plot was really simple and interesting and I was really curious what would happen next, so I kept watching.

I haven't said anything about the plot, and that's because in the end, I can't really recommend this movie. It's a four hour long silent drama, and I feel safe saying that pretty much no one wants to watch that. There are some movies, like the Apu Trilogy, that feel worth the extra effort of finding a copy to rent, but this isn't one of them. What makes it interesting is the history surrounding it, and the stories that Ebert tells about it in his essay. He writes about a time when it all nine hours of it was shown with no breaks for lunch or anything, and the director sat and refused to get up once, indignant. That is far more interesting to me than the actual movie. The stories of how it was made, how the actors mutinied and it was shot on location, that makes the movie something great. Other than that, though, unless you really like this sort of movie or have four hours of free time, I can't say much else.
And I need to get back to doing what really matters – watching some of my Blu-Rays on the couch with Nikita and Anthony, with mugs of hot coffee :)

Links:

A Hard Day's Night

The Grand Illusion