Friday, April 4, 2014

Silent Film Tonight: The Docks of New York

This masterpiece by Josef von Sternberg belongs to the last years of silent cinema (1928), the period in which the form, facing extinction, achieved perfection. There's no waste, no excess, in Sternberg's production: the melodramatic plot (a ship's stoker rescues a girl from suicide, marries her, and takes the rap for a minor crime she is accused of) is so familiar and so desultorily presented that it's barely perceptible, and the acting is minimal, confined to ritual gestures endlessly repeated. Sternberg suppresses direct emotional appeal to concentrate on something infinitely fine: a series of minute, discrete moral discoveries and philosophical realignments among his characters. --Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader, 2013

April 4 (Friday)
Film screening — 7:30 p.m., Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus

Directed by Josef von Sternberg
(United States, 1928, 76 minutes, b/w, silent with live musical accompaniment by Mike Schiffer)
Starring George Bancroft, Betty Compson, Olga Baclanova

In this 1928 silent masterpiece directed by Josef von Sternberg, a steamboat stoker working on the New York City waterfront saves a suicidal woman who has jumped off a pier into the briny water below. The selfless act changes his life forever.