Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Henry Miller's "films in my life" in his essay on The Golden Age


Lya Lys in L'Age d'Or

[...] Five or six years ago I had the rare good fortune to see L'Age d'Or, the film made by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali, which created a riot at Studio 28.  For the first time in my life I had the impression that I was watching a film which was pure cinema and nothing but cinema. Since then I'm convinced that L'Age d'Or is unique and unparalleled. Before going on I should like to remark that I have been going to the cinema regularly for forty years; in that time I have seen several thousand films. It should be understood, therefore, that in glorifying the Buñuel-Dali film I am not unmindful of having seen such remarkable films as:

    The Last Laugh (Emil Jannings)
    Berlin
    Le Chapeau de paille d'Italie (René Clair)
    Le Chemin de la vie
    La souriante Madame Beudet (Germaine Dulac)
    Man braucht kein Geld
    La Mélodie du Monde (Walther Ruttmann)
    Le Ballet mécanique
    Of What Are the Young Films Dreaming (Comte de Beaumont)
    Rocambolesque
    Three Comrades and One Invention
    Ivan the Terrible (Emil Jannings)
    The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
    The Crowd (King Vidor)
    La Maternelle
    Othello (Krauss & Jannings)
    Extase (Machaty)
    Grass
    Eskimo
    Le Maudit
    Lilliane (Barbara Stanwyck)
    A nous la liberté (René Clair)
    La tendre ennemie (Max Ophuls)
    The Trackwalker
    Potemkin
    Les Marins de Cronstadt
    Greed (Erich von Stroheim)
    Thunder Over Mexico (Eisenstein)
    The Beggars' Opera
    Mädchen in Uniform (Dorothea Wieck)
    A Midsummer Night's Dream (Reinhardt)
    Crime and Punishment (Pierre Blanchard)
    The Student of Prague (Conrad Veidt)
    Poil de carotte
    Banquier Pichler
    The Informer (Victor McLaglen)
    The Blue Angel (Marlene Dietrich)
    L'Homme à la barbiche
    L'Affaire est dans le sac (Prévert)
    Moana (Flaherty)
    Mayerling (Charles Boyer & Danielle Darrieux)
    Kriss
    Variety (Krauss & Jannings)
    Chang
    Sunrise (Murnau)
              nor
    Three Japanese films (ancient, mediaeval and modern Japan) the titles of which I have forgotten
              nor
    a documentaire on India
              nor
    a documentaire on Tasmania
              nor
    a documentaire on the death rites in Mexico, by Eisenstein
              nor
    a psychoanalytic dream picture, in the days of the silent film, with Werner Krauss
              nor
    certain films of Lon Chaney, particularly one based on a novel of Selma Lagerlöf in which he played with Norma Shearer
              nor
    The Great Ziegfeld, nor Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
              nor
    The Lost Horizon (Frank Capra), the first significant film out of Hollywood
              nor
the very first movie I ever saw, which was a newsreel showing the Brooklyn Bridge and a Chinaman with a pigtail walking over the bridge in the rain! I was only seven or eight years of age when I saw this film in the basement of the old South Third Street Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn. Subsequently I saw hundreds of pictures in which it always seemed to be raining and in which there were always nightmarish pursuits in which houses collapsed and people disappeared through trap-doors and pies were thrown and human life was cheap and human dignity was nil. And after thousands of slap-stick, pie-throwing Mack Sennett films, after Charlie Chaplin had exhausted his bag of tricks, after Fatty Arbuckle, Harold Lloyd, Harry Langdon, Buster Keaton, each with his own special brand of monkey shines, came the chef d'œuvre of all the slap-stick, pie-throwing festivals, a film the title of which I forget, but it was among the very first films starring Laurel and Hardy. This, in my opinion, is the greatest comic film ever made - because it brought the pie-throwing to apotheosis. There was nothing but pie-throwing in it, nothing but pies, thousands and thousands of pies and everybody throwing them right and left. It was the ultimate in burlesque, and it is already forgotten. [...]

Excerpt from Henry Miller's essay "The Golden Age" in: The Cosmological Eye, Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1939. ISBN 0-8112-0110-4

When Henry Miller (December 26, 1891 – June 7, 1980) says he saw his first film at seven or eight years of age that would mean that he had been going to the cinema since 1898 or 1899.

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