Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Laugh Clown Laugh

I still like the clowns.

Decided to do something a bit different with some silent films this week that all strangely have a circus theme for Lon Chaney this week, but honestly they are some of my favorite films of his. Made during the height of Chaney's popularity the plot involves a circus performer named Tito who one day finds a young girl abandoned in the woods and decides to raise her and names her Simonetta, as time passed and the girl grew up into a young woman Tito feels conflicted emotions on his love for her and quite soon she meets a young count named Luigi Ravelli as a sort of love triangle forms. I say kind of because in an aspect I greatly love and appreciate of the film, it's not this big rivalry between Tito and Luigi for the affection of this woman. In fact they meet while seeing the same doctor, Luigi has bouts of uncontrollable laughter while Tito weeps frequently and they actually decide to help each other out. So they actually have a good standing relationship and both have the intention to bow out gracefully if Simonetta chooses one of them. No nonsense, no fighting, no unecessary drama, just two men who will respect the woman they love's choice on who she wants to be with. Another thing I find interesting is you're not entirely sure how Simonetta feels about Tito, they keep it vague until near the end and it works well because of their relationship. Tito loves her unconditionally and wants her happy but raised her as his daughter so he has a dilemma of whether to confess his love, and Simonetta feels the same very much loving him and doesn't want to leave him but you can't pin down if it's romantic or familial love. It's an incredibly basic story but the performances are what makes it truly worth watching, I hardly think I need to say much about Lon Chaney the man was one of the greatest actors like...ever and can convey so much through facial features, Loretta Young was a mere 15 years old in her first leading role and she handles it very well being able to keep up with the pace of Chaney and is believable in the role, Nils Asther is a good secondary leading man and the writing they gave his character keeps him from being a one note dashing suitor like say Raoul in Phantom Of The Opera, speaking of which Bernard Siegal who played Joseph Bouquet in the 1925 version is the stage partner of Chaney in this film, isn't that neat. I feel the tragedy angle isn't nearly as strong as another film we're gonna look at this week, it focuses on the romance and the internal drama of the characters which is the important part, the tragedy element is really only at the end and while Chaney pulls it off with ease it's not something in the foreground throughout the movie. Production values are really good, the image of Lon Chaney in clown costume is striking and memorable, the version I watched had a score composed by H. Scott Salinas which was actually quite pretty in places and complemented the scenes effectively, and for a movie just a bit over an hour you really don't have much to lose. It's a very good movie, and anytime silent cinema is available to me I have no problem sitting down and watching it even at a much later hour like I did for this movie. Film has barely been around for a 100 years and every era is worth discussing and seeing to distinguish where we were and where we are going from here. 4 stars, 8/10, catch you next time.

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