For Your Awareness: Greed (1924)

I am not feeling up to a full on review tonight and have decided to offer another reflection on a film that is rather hard to come by.  Many of those reading this will without a doubt be familiar with Eric von Stroheim given his notable roles in both the French classic The Grand Illusion and the American masterpiece Sunset Boulevard.  However, what you may not know is that von Stroheim was also a director.  His 1924 film Greed is an epic study of all that concerns monetary lust and the great lengths people go to possess financial power.  In its original form the film spanned well over 9 1/2 hours and focused on a large set of characters.  Tragically, at the suggestion of his friends and the demands of producers he was forced to cut the film to just over two hours in length.  This meant that almost seven hours of footage were left unsalvageable on the cutting room floor.  I only mention this, because what is left of the film is magnificent and film preservationists, historians and critics alike are beckoning their friends and all film enthusiasts to watch what remains.  The film often appears on critics Top 100 lists and receives rave reviews for its innovative cinematography and complexly heartbreaking narrative.

I too have had an opportunity to view the film in its most complete format and found it to be stunningly well made and an honest, yet brutal, study in human fault and the illusion of financial happiness.  Unfortunately, my route to finding the film was less than stellar and I was forced to rely on what little the internet offers in scenes from the film along with a combination of stills that TCM have provided to fill in gaps in von Stroheim's narrative.  My experience was like that of watching Ken Burns fill in the blanks to the films missing narrative, yet it was still spectacular.  The still imagery was fantastic and makes due to advance the story.  So I am sure you are wondering why the hell I am expounding on this film in great detail if it is forever lost to producers interfering with the complete film.  The answer is simple, and was discussed in my previous post on The Rules of the Game.  It is a sin that directors are told to cut their movies, or that their work is censored in the name of public decency.   In the case of Greed, the effects were dire and make the movie seem incoherent at times.  The fact of the matter is that its incoherence was due wholly to a director being told his vision was too grand and that viewers demand something far simpler.

The whole point of this post is simple.  Do not be a film viewer who promotes simplicity and mediocrity in filmmaking, because you will be given just that.  Do not be the individual at The Tree of Life groaning every two minutes, or the person who only attends the umpteenth installment of the Scream franchise (not that I am knocking it entirely).  We as moviegoers, and subsequently consumers, can demand greater things from studios and a tragedy like Greed will never happen again.  With that being said, watch what exists of this film by any means necessary, it is truly mesmerizing.

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