Silent film

When I was in high school and hung around the video store, I once asked one of the clerks if he liked Chaplin, meaning Chaplin: The Movie, which I loved. He said, “I like Chaplin movies,” and nothing more on the subject. I’m sure we would still disagree today. But that idea—liking Chaplin movies—got to be an important one throughout the nineties. There was a forced discovery of silent film in my undergrad and probably many others. Public domain releases of silent on DVD somehow had more cachet than their VHS releases. And Criterion has been pretty good at keeping it going. Film preservation is more in the public eye now than ever before, but silent film viewing never got much traction. It’s a shame. I’d even hoped there’d be more films like Call of Cthulhu where making a silent film was part of a budgetary constraint. I think I liked Chaplin’s sound pictures all right. And I love the movie. But silent films have so much technical ingenuity. Ingenuity out of necessity is a beautiful thing.

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