This week I watched two more D.W. Griffith movies. Both forms of social commentary, but radically different from each other: Those Awful Hats and A Corner in Wheat. The first shows the early 19th century’s version of a “turn off your cell phones” theatre service announcement. Top hats and large, flowered, wide-brimmed numbers were apparently quite a problem for the average theatre-goer. And the punishment for not removing your hat? A large bucket-claw-thing will pick you up and physically remove you!

The special effects in this film are noteworthy. The film used a blue-screen-esque matte to give the effect of a projected film. A little rough, but extremely innovative.

The second film, A Corner in Wheat, takes on the more serious subject of proletarian poverty. Farmers are at the mercy of “The Wheat King” who pays the farmers less and less while driving up the prices of wheat for the shop owners. Though a serious look at poverty in the plain states, the film also has some funny moments. Those ladies with the giant flowered hats return to flirt it up with The Wheat King, only to find him moments later, drowned in a vat of falling wheat. Parallel editing makes this final scene absolutely fascinating.


Filed under Film History Series, Whitney

4 responses to “1909

  1. brian

    i think the only movie i have seen in 1909 is the devilish tenant by melies. however, i dont really remember it. i saw 30 of his movies in a two day period last fall. this one probably featured him in a devil outfit harassing people — pulling chairs out from under people, disappearing and reappearing, ect. melies is pretty interesting. all of his movies seem like magic performances. the camera looks onto a stage while melies and his actors direct their performances towards the camera. what’s most fascinating is how this guy invented a million camera tricks before the first world war. and he’s super funny.

    what i like best about early film is how everyone was just making everything up. there were no conventions which seemed to free everyone up. you could do whatever the fuck you wanted. the only thing that made it a movie was the technology used to record the event. but also, the technology also determined the art form (and still does).

  2. brian

    and i’ll start posting more. but right now i’ve lost all my confidence.

  3. I love that the Devil would resort to pulling chairs out from under people. He should tie their shoelaces together first. That always gets ’em.

    I hope you get your confidence back, because I like reading your posts way more than posting my own.

  4. brian

    i feel the same except i like reading your post way more than mine.

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