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Name: Dan Sallitt
Location: New York, New York, United States

Monday, July 21, 2008

The River and The Pilgrim (Borzage)

A very good PAL DVD of Frank Borzage's The River, or as much of it as exists, has been released by Edition Filmmuseum. My article on the film is up at the Auteurs' Notebook.

In the article, I allude to the 1916 two-reeler The Pilgrim, which is one of three early Borzage shorts included as extras on the DVD. I've seen only a handful of Borzage's 1910's films (and I presume that most are lost): until now, I would have said that the 1917 Until They Get Me was the pick of the bunch. But The Pilgrim, little seen and with no reputation that I know of, strikes me as an important work: it gives the impression that Borzage had to move away from the melodrama of the early silents (cf. the 1915 short The Pitch 'O Chance, also on the DVD) before he could later reclaim melodrama on his own terms. Instead, The Pilgrim focuses on expressions, on using cinema to stop time and ponder the feelings that people can only half communicate - one senses here that Griffith was Borzage's first master. The film features the first great moment in Borzage's career, in which the Eastern heroine (Anna Little), momentarily awakened by the good/bad protagonist (Borzage), ponders in closeup the phantasmagoria of life-and-death drama and budding love into which she has stumbled, then drifts back into sleep.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Murnau/Borzage Box due from Fox in time for Christmas includes "The River" among several others.

July 22, 2008 12:29 AM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

Thanks for the tip. All the publicity for this box set mentions 4 Devils - what's up with that?

July 26, 2008 8:52 AM  

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