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Tuesday, July 01, 2014

The Kings of Kings (1927) d. Cecil B. Demille

Cecil B. Demille's Jesus piece: The King of Kings (1927)

Movie Review
The Kings of Kings (1927)
d. Cecil B. Demille
Criterion Collection #266

  Um heads up- this movie is practically three hours long.  It's also a "silent" film- albeit one with a banging, restored/new(?) soundtrack courtesy of the Criterion Collection re-issue.  The 1920s are the first decade where you can really compare movies to printed literature, or argue that movies really are literature (reading required before the advent of sound) but the Criterion Collection's FIRST film was released in 1922.  There are, in fact, only 17 films from the 1920s in the entire Criterion Collection, and hardly more than that if you include the Eclipse.  Meanwhile, 70 of the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die are from the 1920s.  And, you know, I'll watch the films of the 1920s if Criterion Collection deems worthy, but I'm not going to be seeking out silent movies to  watch in my spare time, because watching silent films is a chore.

   Although DeMille had a brief career as a would-be "artistic" film director early in his career, he will forever be associated with epic silent era Hollywood era event films.  This makes him a somewhat uncomfortable subject to film scholars who would rather dwell on the art films made in Scandinavia during the same period that DeMille was dominating the marketplace in America.  You can see the Criterion Collection being cognizant of the deficit- they've released two 20s comedies from Harold Lloyd in the past year or so.

  Luckily for me I am actually unfamiliar with "the story" of the life of Jesus, so this three hour silent epic was the first time I actually saw the episodes that I understand to be integral to the Christian faith: ejecting money lenders from the temple, Judas betraying him, Jesus performing miracles and of course, the crucifixion, which is the stylish money shot of the entire epic.  If you want the 10 minute version of this lengthy, silent film, watch the ten minutes prior to the final ten minutes of the film, the Crucifixion/suicide of Judas scene, holeee shit it is crazay.

  There is not much (any?) camera movement, so what you get is posed scene/title card/posed scene.  There is very little action, though often huge numbers of people in the frame of the film- it's more like a series of pose tableaux's then what we consider modern film making.  Demille was presumably the most successful exponent of a style which has largely been consigned to the dustbin of history.

  Trigger Alert:  This movie depicts Jesus being crucified and is not very kind to Jews.

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