Sunday, October 14, 2012

Jason watches FOOLISH WIVES

At the Stanford Theatre, with Dennis James rocking the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ. And it was pretty awesome.

Of course, it's all about Erich Von Stroheim. He directs and stars (and is credited as the author of the novel-within-the-film) as a count/conman in Monte Carlo. He lives off counterfeiting and from the money he swindles from the rich ladies who pass through the town. Especially the wife of the U.S. Ambassador.

But to understand the movie, you have to understand how it was made. After a couple of successes, he was given carte blanche by Universal to make whatever he wanted. So he made the first film ever to cost over $1,000,000. He obsessed over verisimilitude to the point where the underwear of his military uniform needed to be authentic (it is never seen on screen.) And his final edit was 32 reels (~8 hours.) Universal cut it in half, then thought about it for a year, then cut it in half again, down to 7 reels. Fortunately, there were two different 7 reel cuts that survived and have been pieced together as best as possible. The final result ran 2 hours and 22 minutes (~9-10 reels.) But it means the end result is choppy and poorly paced, but contains individually brilliant scenes (my two personal favorites are the mirror scene and the crying scene, both showcasing Von Stroheim at his conniving best.) I know it's crazy to say I wish the 8 hour cut survived so I could see it, but that's the honest truth. I'm sure the original was brilliant and although it would be an all-day marathon with more than a few intermissions, I'm sure the time would fly right by. Well, one can only wish.

Running Time: 142 minutes
My Total Minutes: 299,755

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