Lonesome ★★★★½

A masterpiece of late silent cinema, a city symphony linked not by hard cuts like the Soviet montage of Dziga Vertov's Man with a Movie Camera, but by much more humane dissolves. The sense of city as machine, as menace, as impenetrable, destructive crowd is still there, especially in the confetti-strewn carnival scenes, which look like Sunrise's Luna Park sequence as directed by Josef von Sternberg, but the dissolves reveal the romantic heart lying underneath it all, fulfilled by the O. Henry ending (riffed on extensively in Johnnie To's Turn Left, Turn Right). Fejos in an interview from Criterion's liner notes: "It sounds corny, but let's say that it was high corn."

There are three short talking sequences which are absolutely abysmal. The dialogue is terrible, the acting stiff and slow, the camera, which is a constant vulgar whir through the rest of the film is stately, removed and fixed. The scenes look like they were filmed on another planet, one that just learned how to talk and can therefore only do so in the most basic, ludicrous banalities.

The sequences are so bad they prove how silly it is to complain about movie dialogue in the first place, how inessential talking is to cinema. Dialogue is another, wholly alien, art form, grafted onto movies for the sake of a phony verisimilitude and increasing the box office take. Unfortunately, talking pictures, unlike the similarly motivated and useless and already dying 3D craze, appear to be here to stay.

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