Sunday, August 05, 2012

Imperial Preference



What a fascinating piece of kit.

Color anything in 1927 was a treat. The big cinematic extravaganzas in '27 were France's Napoleon, Germany's Metropolis, and America's The Jazz Singer. They're all black and white, but the Jazz Singer at least made its own noise. They're all considered seminal by movie buffs, but I wouldn't cross the street to look at them for free. I'd watch Friese-Greene documentaries, like that tour of London, all day.

London was the center of a real, live empire in 1927. It was a boxer that had just gotten a hammer blow and was staggering around the canvas at that point, built on too tough a frame to fall down right away, but not going anywhere but down. It still had far-flung Dominions that looked to it for guidance or succor or a handy enemy to overthrow, and they would all have sat in rapt attention in their garden spots and pest holes alike to get a sense of The Hum of Lunnon, the center of their universe.

I like telling stories, and having them told to me, as much or more than the next guy, but almost all artist's storytelling is mawkish -- if they can get the story to cohere enough to even achieve mawkishness.

Of course even a person making travelogues is an editor, and can show you only Potemkins all day if he chooses. But entertainment "portraying" real life is 100 percent Potemkin. This tour of London is not some other guy's idea of the world. It's my idea of the world, which I derive on the fly by looking at it. It's worth a thousand David Copperfields.

Cinematographers will watch this and grab as many details about the surroundings as they can remember, and then use them to camouflage the gigantic fibs they wish to tell about the way people act. That's Entertainment!

5 comments:

Sam L. said...

This looked like a badly colorized 3-D shot as a still. Amazing when it moved.

Sam L. said...

Mr. Sippi, you come up with some amazing stuff. And then you write a bit or more about it. Much of that is pretty amazing, too.

Caedmon said...

My Grandfather's London, and a surprising amount of it still recognisable to me. Some of what has changed changed within my lifetime. I can remember when the cranes from the docks came all the way down to Tower Bridge.

diƤtplan said...

Oh, it all looks so charming, I'd love to step back in time and visit. Specially that inclined railway. There's a great old tramway in Trieste, Italy, which goes up a steep hill, what a great experience - and the cost is only the same as other public transportation. Guess the trams in Trieste are about the same vintage as your little movie!

Cambias said...

One moment did catch my thoughts: the little boy at the street vendor's table. He looked about eight, in 1927, which would make him 20 in 1939. I wonder if he made it through the war?