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Posts posted by escweasel

  1. 1. Do you agree or disagree with Agee and Youngson's statements that the silent films from 1912 – 1930 constituted "comedy's greatest era" or its "golden age?" Why or why not?


    I would call it a golden age in the sense of it establishing a foundation.  Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin may not have been any better idealists, reformers, or politicians than many since them.  Their "founding father" status, however, places them on a special pedestal.  The silent era comedians were the pioneers of film comedy.  They laid the foundations that are still present.


    Ironically, I had muted my TV while checking my e-mail and subsequently exploring these course materials.  When I looked up, Back to the Future was on and Doctor Emmett Brown was on the clocktower preparing to harness the lightning needed to get the 1.21 gigawatts necessary for the flux capacitor.  Sound was hardly necessary.  Christopher Loyd's exaggerated facial expressions and body movements coupled with other visual effects (lots of sparks at the right time) were all that were necessary.  The whole thing couldn't help but trigger an association with Harold Loyd's clock scenes in Safety Last!  As Solomon said, there is nothing new under the sun.  The silent founding fathers live on.  Back to the future, indeed.


    2. Do you agree with the film's narrator that in the silent film era the "gags were completely visual—a form of wit that has all but disappeared from the land, but which experts now agree were among the most imaginative and enduring comedy of all…?” Did this form of comedy "disappear" or did it simply evolve in the sound era?



    I would say that the silent film era added an element of wit that otherwise might never have existed.  It was the silent film era, not the silent era.  Sound had existed from the beginning of time.  "Moving pictures" were a new novelty but audiences could still always go to live performances - complete with sound.  Comedy has been shaped by its presentation.  The source of the term "slapstick" is a good example.  To convey the impression of a severe blow in live performance without injuring the performers required an exaggerated sound.  In silent film, the gags, of necessity, had to be visual.  Therefore, the impression of this severe blow had to be conveyed differently,  Say, for example, by the performer receiving a swat to the butt being lofted into the air.  When sound came to films, the comedy of this exaggerated physicality remained.  If films had been complete with sound from the beginning, this facet of comedy may have evolved more slowly or not at all.


    3. What impact do you think documentaries, compilation films, and essays like these have had on popular opinion about the silent film era?


    I would say that impact is an understatement.  It could be said that they are the source of public opinion.  Indeed, that public opinion was formed and shaped by them.  In the spirit of Napoleon Bonaparte's quote, History is a set of lies agreed upon, I basically have to rely on historians to tell me what it was all about.  I wasn't personally there.  If I had been, my memories themselves would have been distorted by time and influence.  To form an opinion, I'd have to do research.  Where would I turn for information?  Documentaries, compilation films, and essays.  It is, of course, possible to resist the biases of those sources and evaluate personally but, even so, any independent investigation is inevitably tainted by availability.  Even just seeking out every available clip is biased by which ones are readily available and which have been filtered out by time.


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