Michael Curtiz is a wonderful film maker. Albeit, he's often reputed to be wonderful for "Casablanca" (his magnum opus about Rick, played by Humphrey Bogart, who is abscond and inhabits in Casablanca as his past floods back to him and during these events, we see the brooding war). But he's also done masterpieces like "Angels with Dirty Faces", "Mystery of the Wax Museum", "Mildred Pierce" and many others. I marginally mention this because I just want to say that he wasn't limited in his credentials with great film and to illustrate this point, I'll intersect this point by using this grandiose and technical masterpiece as an example.
"Noah's Ark" was made just after WW1. It intercuts this event with the other fateful event "Noah's Ark". And I do want to laud this film for a few things; one is Guinn Williams as Al; his performance is spellbinding, as his passion of war and love combine. He's Travis' friend and he doesn't act in formulaic melodrama and embodies the character perfectly. There really is nothing divisive about it that I can say, as he was a stellar for what feels like a short lived and marginal character. He's also quite funny when he says through inter-title "If he's fighting my friend, you better look out for the guy he's fighting". His death scene is not sonorised (perhaps to better effect) and is played out in a solo way. What impressed me most about his sterling performance was that the acting was naturalistic and dialogue utterances are not forced, as if by the script lines. This actor was also in the silent era and he might be one of the best actors to transition into the sound era.
Dolores Costello plays Marie, a young woman, who finds love when she boards the same bus as Travis (played by the dazzling George O'Brien, from films that stem from "The Iron Horse" (1924) and "Sunrise" (1927) by F.W. Murneau). There's people on the bus that say things through superfluous inter-titles such as "Science disproves god" and contrariety's by an old man (a man who will be the one-dimensional character and be considered later on). During the bus crash that ensues, it will remind viewers of Noah's Ark, which the film opens up with the construction of and like "The Bridge on the River Kwaii" the sets were getting built during the production, but unlike "The Bridge on the River Kwaii" it's not on location. It's one of WB's best films during that era.
Travis and Marie take refuge at a nearby house, where Nickoloff is, and they fight against him due to reasons of love. After this, sequences with the two permeate for a while until Travis is confronted about his place in the army. He then enlists in it leaving by his wife.
The modern story is basically WW1 and it isn't done very well. More scenes could have chronicled the disaster, but instead it chronicles around the sentimentality, the dialogue exchanges between Travis and Al and a bomb getting thrown.
Much of the latter story is infinitely better and makes up for this last part to the first act. This act is shown through the book of God and it soon becomes biblical as that Old Man returns, as if by divine intervention, to hinder the death of his wife who goes in the breech. She is captive in this story and God (almost a replication of "The Ten Commandments" title sequence) orders that he must kill them by water. And then comes the most famous sequence of the film.
It would be a bit higher on my list, after I found it that the way they emulate it, was real. Dummies were in a separate set and the real people with inflections and the lot were where the deluge of blood was played out. It's mind boggling; sets fall and tragedy is completely futile.
I don't want to go too deeper into it. This film was the "Ben Hur" of its day. But it's also a pastiche and more coherent version of "Intolerance", influenced by the modernity of its time, whereas Intolerance compared that with various eras before the 20th century. I am interested in its dialogue scenes, as well and how it mainly permeates war songs. The score seems rhythmic as well and it seems picked by the film maker or Warner Brothers. It may disconcert people that many people were injured and at the risk of that, the film may not be one you will pick up. However I recommend watching Hollywood 1980: A Celebration of Silent Film (the first part and the rest are on YouTube) and look at a slight history of the films making and then think about purchasing it. As for me, I was excited to get it. But it's an each to their own film.
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