Saturday, April 3, 2010

King of Kings (1927)

My first memory of this film was getting up at 5 or 6 am to see this on a local PBS station in the 1970's. I thought it was cool that they were showing an old silent film that had some color sequences. The film has always danced around my brain. When Criterion put out the double disc I picked it up mostly out of curiosity.

Watching for the film for the first time in decades I was struck by how moving the film is. Certainly its over done and over blown and all of the things you think of when you think of silent movies, however its also very human. Amazingly Jesus laughs, smiles and has a real presence as a human being, which is missing from most other versions of the tale. Think of the sound version of King of Kings, or The Greatest Story Ever Told, or Passion of the Christ which are all so stiff as to be dull and laughable. Yes, some of the piety here is laughable, but for the most part there is real emotion, we get real human humor and emotion. The best example is at the beginning when Jesus heals the blind girl its hard not to weep at the beauty of it. Even Jesus is happy at the turn of events.

And then there is the spectacle, Mary Magdalene's home, the crucifixion, the resurrection are grand movie spectacle moments. Silent or not 80 years old or not, the scenes still make you go "wow" even after all of the advances in computer generated effects.(I think the lack of computers make them even more amazing).

This is a great movie. Its not perfect, there are silly moments, but there is more than enough to make you wonder if the Hollywood and filmmakers elsewhere should have ever bothered to try to duplicate the magic of this film and the story it tells when they got it so right this time out.

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