Every film from Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" essays.
Broken Blossoms or The Yellow Man and the Girl
Broken Blossoms is an American silent film from director D. W. Griffith. This melodrama tells the love story of an abused English woman and a Chinese Buddhist in a time when London was a brutal and harsh place to live.
You might expect a film adaptation of a story called The Chink and the Child made by Birth of a Nation director D.W. Griffith to be, well, not exactly racially sensitive. And, true, the character of Cheng Huan is played by westerner Richard Barthelmess, who squints his eyes to achieve an oriental look. But, if anything, Broken Blossoms is about tolerance, and in particular racial tolerance, it being the story of two ethnically different star-crossed lovers, whose flowering affections are cruelly thwarted by a racist brute.
Lillian Gish is phenomenal. Her character, Lucy, may never be anything more than a victim in the story, but Gish, with her tremulous, haunted fragility, is magnetic. There is one particular scene where Lucy…
As much a reaction to BIRTH as INTOLERANCE, with a racially flipped climax that suggests the average white woman has more to fear from a drunken, single-minded relative than a minority. Smaller in scale than Griffith's other features to that point, but no less intricate in its technical and emotional mastery. Maybe even my favorite of his features so far.
As is the case with most films predating 1920, 'Broken Blossoms' must be viewed as a historical artifact and forgiven for some of its now unacceptable faults. Had this film been released today, nearly 100 years on, it would be an undoubted one-star piece of crap, but such was the style and simplicity of early filmmaking, it's impossible not to let this film off the hook to some degree.
The most unavoidable yet most forgivable problem with 'Broken Blossoms' is the acting. Produced at a time when screen actors and theatre actors were essentially one and the same, it is clear that nobody had yet realised that the melodramatic style required for the theatre - where the audience may find…
D.W. Griffith's Broken Blossoms is a film I really respect, even though I found it very boring for the first half hour. After that it really started to pick up pace, and the tension had me on edge for the second half of the film.
I haven't seen The Birth of a Nation yet, but I've read all about its infamous racist nature. I was therefore very surprised to see how well this film tackled that issue, seeing it was released just four years later. Sure, you have the odd blackface, and our main protagonist is called "The Yellow Man" and a "Chink" throughout the film, and is played by an American with slightly closed eyes, but he's still the…
A Century of Cinema Challenge: 1919
I've only just begun to delve into the world of silent film, but amidst my limited exposure, Broken Blossoms is the most beautiful silent film I've ever seen. Unlike his racist epic The Birth of a Nation, DW Griffith took a more minimalist approach with Broken Blossoms, an intimate story of racial tolerance and perhaps one of the most tender love stories I've ever seen in a film. The story follows a Chinese Buddhist, simply called the Yellow Man, who journeys to London hoping to spread the Buddha's message of peace and love to the West. He quickly becomes disillusioned after living in the harsh, unforgiving reality of early 20th century London and becomes…
This review reportedly contains spoilers. I can handle the truth.
In this influential but poorly aged film, Griffith's contrived plot and contrived melodrama get in the way of the story he's trying to tell. He doesn't try to develop his characters at all, trying to gain sympathy for his characters purely through violence.
Oh boy. This one is gonna be rough. The next entry in Roger Ebert’s The Great Movies is D.W. Griffith’s Broken Blossoms. Aside from being one of the pioneers of the feature film format, Griffith is probably best known for The Birth of a Nation, a movie heavily derided for its racist depiction of African Americans and its glorification of the Ku Klux Klan. Griffith learned his lesson after that one, making films like Intolerance and Broken Blossoms, which attempt to show a more accepting view of other ethnicities.
Here’s the thing about Broken Blossoms – while the movie is admirable in desire to show the Chinese culture in a positive light, its abundant use of yellow face kind of…
D.W. Griffith had a message. He had a message, and what way is better to express it then through the art form of motion picture? In Intolerance his message was a critisism about how the consequenses were when you wouldn't show tolerance to others opinions and perspectives. In The Birth Of A Nation his message was racistic, and to be honest I don't know what the hell he was thinking about making it, and what the hell he tried to tell the audience. In Broken Blossoms or The Yellow Man and the Girl his message was that behaving ruthless and agressive, and in general like a bad person, won't achieve anything. This is also relevant now a days.
A much more progressive film for it's time than "The Birth of a Nation". Although it's depiction of race is dated and stereotypic the film has awareness of many of the social issues of it's day. It is generally symphatetic towards the plight of racial minorities, poor of the working class and women.
Griffith is best known for his two epics, but his sensibility reveals itself better in his intimate melodramas. With the artificial evocation of the foggy Limehouse District, Griffith has managed to create a whole imagined world that pulsates with athmosphere. It is a world that is both beautiful and hopeless. A place where true human connection seems to be just a short beautiful dream that will be inevitably crushed by the sordid reality.
Based on Thomas Burke's story "The Chink and the Child" from the 1916 collection Limehouse Nights. (Yellow Peril much? Wow.) A Chinaman named Cheng -- a boy who "dreams to spread the gentle message of Buddha to the Anglo-Saxon lands" (in the original story he was a seedy drifter, so the adaptation actually makes it less offensive) -- falls in love with Lucy, the daughter of Battling, an abusive drunkard prizefighter. A dank Limehouse setting, contrasted with the central couple's innocent love, might have inspired (according to Richard Schickel) "Pabst, Stiller, von Sternberg, and others, [and then reëmerged] in the sound era, in the genre identified as Film Noir." That's quite a pedigree, for such an embarrassing premise, so BROKEN…
Firstly I'd like to say that this film is horrifically racist, it's morally disgusting. The protagonist is Chinese and is unnamed, only being referred to as "Chinky" or "yellow man". The fact that instead of using a Chinese actor they use a white man in yellow make up is what I found most disgusting. However all that said, its typical of the time, so you almost can't hold the film responsible but the social norm of 1919. This film for the time was actually the opposite of racist, and competitively it was a huge leap forward, having your protagonist as a Chinese man would have been unheard of. For the actual rating I chose to leave the morals behind and…
Oh the classic racism. It should be obvious from the subtitle but the premise of this film is sort of operating off the general (for the time, at least) assumption that, essentially, the only good china man is a dead china man. The "Yellow Man" (who, of course given the time, is not played by an Asian actor) is sweet and docile and gentle and nearly everyone but the girl of the subtitle seems to want to beat him into a pulp upon sight. The poster is somewhat deceiving, this film is not that romantic and probably couldn't be given the time and the general feeling about interracial relationships that were around then.
What an extraordinary turnaround from Birth of a Nation. In this, a Chinese man travels to America to "spread the word of Buddha", but falls into destitute. Meanwhile, Lillian Gish's pathetic specimen is threatened and beaten on a daily basis by her terrifying father, "Battling" Burrows, a London boxer. The result is a love story as the two displaced beings fall into each others' arms.
It seemed like just yesterday DW Griffith was the most racist man in the history of cinema. The truth, as always, is murkier and far greyer. I read this article which discussed Griffith's politics. The truth emerges; there is nothing in his biography which suggest a great distaste for people…
Like in Intolerance, Griffith’s message of toleration skirts didacticism, but is supported by his skillful innovation, from his conflating of cultures on a dramatic scale (‘Yellow Man’ tag aside) to his nimble use of tinting on a technical spectrum. Indeed, of all his most renowned narratives, Broken Blossoms is his most economical in its harsh, sordid depiction of hardship (and with it, producing Gish’s most iconic performance), thus distinguishing itself from the aforementioned, heftier parable - even if it effectively remains a worthy offshoot of said film.
- 12 Angry Men
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- 25th Hour
- 3 Women
- A Trip to the Moon
- The Great Train Robbery
- The Birth of a Nation
- Les Vampires
All the films from all the editions, including those subsequently removed, presently totalling 1154. An easy way of seeing how…
- Citizen Kane
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- Tokyo Story
- The Rules of the Game