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BROKEN BLOSSOMS
1919 - DW Griffith
United States
99
Opening Shot

A title card reading "It is a tale of temple bells, sounding at sunset before the image of Buddha; it is a tale of love and lovers; it is a tale of tears....", starts the film before we see the image of ship docking at port under the night sky (emphasized by the purple tint of the image).

The Film

Broken Blossoms is certainly outdated today in terms of it's overall message. However, as a product of it's time it remains a daring film which speaks of human equality. Outdated or not, the technical and visual achievements of D.W. Giffith's film can not be denied. Neither can the presence of one of the silent screens greatest actresses, Lillian Gish. Gish has such a lovely angelic quality with each and every frame, and her face has become a lasting staple upon the history of the silent era. For all his controversy, Griffith truly was an innovative filmmaker. Broken Blossoms may be a less landmark or epic film then his previous work (Birth Of A Nation, Intolerance), yet this is Griffith's most compassionate film (even for all it's tragedies). Broken Blossoms contains such a rich atmosphere to blend with it's heavy melodramatic mood. Griffith's masterful cross-cutting and flashbacks add an emotional connection with the characters. While the tragic ending may be expected, it remains powerful. Small in scale and large in melodrama, Broken Blossoms is still a beautifully poetic and stylish work of art that it to me the greatest achievement from Griffith, one of the most important American filmmakers of all-time.

The Filmmaker

D.W. Griffith is easily one of the most controversial but absolutely one of the most important filmmakers of cinema history. His most well known film Birth of a Nation is often regarded as the very first full-length feature in 1915. It's a highly acclaimed film for it's epic storytelling and inventive techniques, but it's equally regarded for it's controversial racial stereotypes. Clearly the film is dated and even disturbing today, but it doesn't erase the fact the Griffith is an icon and a pioneer who all but invented filmmaking and narrative. Even years before Birth of a Nation, Griffith made hundreds of short films during the earliest years of cinema. While he was not the very first filmmaker, Griffith's films were clearly the most influential. He lead the way with the essential techniques of storytelling and narrative (most notably in cinematography, editing, and screenplay) that very few films of the time had. He would use these techniques to change cinema forever with the release of Birth of a Nation. Looking to counter the controversy and claims that he was a racist, Griffith followed-up Birth of a Nation with Intolerance in 1916. It is here that Griffith reached the height of his techniques with a monumental film that stands among the most important ever made. Above all Griffith as a filmmaker was a master of melodrama and this is captured with what I believe to be his best films- 1919's Broken Blossoms, 1921's Orphans of the Storm, and 1920's Way Down East. All of these films would star the incredible Lillian Gish, who is an iconic figure not only of Griffith's films, but of the silent era and she remains among the greatest actresses in the history of film. Gish starred in over 40 Griffith films (short and feature) in a span of less then 10 years. In 1920 Griffith joined Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford to establish United Artists. Griffith career shortly ended with the arrival of sound (which he was not a supporter of). Griffith is a controversial figure in film history, but he also one of the most important. Many claim him to be the teacher or father of film and his early techniques remain as evident today as they did in the earliest days of film.

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