Archive for October 7, 2020

It’s Chinatown

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on October 7, 2020 by dcairns

WHERE THE LIGHTS ARE LOW (1921), screened at Pordenone Silent Film Fest, was enjoyable tosh — Sessue Hayakawa leads a mostly Japanese-American cast playing Chinese in an exciting melodrama.

Hayakawa is a high-born Chinese gent who wants to marry for love, so his evil uncle has his beloved sold into slavery. Our hero traces her to San Francisco but his efforts to buy her freedom are thwarted by the evil uncle again… It all builds to a really gripping conclusion, a colossal punch-up and then a dark twist that had me on the edge of my Ikea lounge chair.

The movie was rediscovered in Croatia complete with Croatian intertitles. The accretion of speckles and scratches only seems to have added to its wonderful texture — lots of embroidered costumes and decaying surfaces. Colin Campbell, director, serves up nifty compositions throughout, with San Francisco playing both itself and China. Also, a cinematic auto-translation, when Sessue finds a message written on a murder weapon —

Dissolve from Chinese original (not sure if it’s GOOD Chinese — to English translation.


Pordenone, having rendered all its streaming videos invisible to frame-grabbing — like trying to photograph a vampire — has now made the subtitles invisible too. I swear they’re watching my every move. But I promise that if you buy a pass, you will be able to see everything.

These images were photographed off my laptop, with resulting colour distortions.

Next up — Italian adventure-comedy THE STORM IN THE SKULL, a 1921 version of Fincher’s THE GAME, also anticipating the twist of SEVEN FOOTPRINTS TO SATAN, and featuring perhaps cinema’s first Zoom call…