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…
Poor, sad little girl. I am not sure I have ever seen terror portrayed so convincingly as the closet scene. And the way she acts with her eyes and uses her fingers to force a smile - brilliant.
I think this Lillian Gish might have a future in the flickers.
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…
A melodrama that displays naive racism but wants to do well by saying that people are all the same under the surface. The overacting is a bit comical.
Do some masterpieces have an expiration date? In this reporter's opinion, almost certainly yes.
In 1915, D.W. Griffith made Birth of a Nation which essentially revolutionized motion pictures forever. Unfortunately, Griffith’s masterpiece was kinda, really really racist. Of course, it was the early twentieth century and these attitudes were commonplace. Apparently though, Griffith realized the flaw in these ways of thinking and their places in his film. This led to the inception of Intolerance which highlighted racial and social injustices throughout the years, and his other masterpiece, Broken Blossoms.
The film follows the story of an unnamed Chinese immigrant who falls for a young girl named Lucy, the daughter of a prizefighter. For almost the entirety of the film, the focus is on the danger that this foreigner poses to the innocent young girl,…
Some years back I watched D.W. Griffith’s two most famous and acclaimed films, The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Throughout the Ages, and I liked neither of them. They’re absolutely remarkable achievements for their time and not in vain they’re considered among the most influential works from the silent era, but personally, in spite of them having some great moments, I found them excessively long and somewhat dull. Broken Blossoms or The Yellow Man and the Girl is quite different, though. It was only 90 minutes long and comparatively it is a much smaller film with far less epic ambitions. I think it’s a masterpiece of its time and a truly powerful and emotionally engaging film.
This review reportedly contains spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Considering this film was made 95 years ago, I think it’s best to acknowledge that Broken Blossoms is problematic and move on. We can’t hold it to contemporary standards because it’s simply not fair to the things D.W. Griffith got right here, so yes, there are derogatory words in the intertitles. Yes, a Caucasian actor plays the role of an Asian. Yes, the characters are comprised of offensive stereotypes that we do not hold to be true anymore. The film is dated, and no one will deny it. But if that were the only focus we were to give it in this day and age, then we would be forced to ignore it completely, and we can’t. It’s too important.…
I'll admit I've been very lazy with Letterboxd as of late and haven't logged a film in some time. But as I start film school, I want to get back into it and what better way then to review the first feature film we watched in class?
Broken Blossoms is a classic story of forbidden love mixed with a heavy theme of racial tolerance. Even though this film is very offensive to today's standards, it was quite liberal at the time. Putting an actor in yellow face was not viewed as raciest, and the very fact that this film deals with interracial love (which was illegal at the time) tells us just how liberal this film was at its time…
Part of the The Gospel According to Letterboxd project
Although expedient at the time, the heavy-handed storytelling of Broken Blossoms, that stares at us atop 95 years of legacy, leaves little to the imagination or any usage of the brain.
I have never been more bored in my entire life. Also, this movie is racist as fuck.
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