Maxwell: The Married Virgin (1918)

Almost immediately this film breaks boundaries of the other films I’ve watched so far–this is more certainly Cinema than anything I’ve seen yet. Many reasons come to mind. The credits, so it introduces the characters one by one, little insights into their personalities, but the method of doing so in this film is different in that the characters do not look at the camera (compare to Amarilly of Clothes-line Alley, in which she wipes a window clean so the audience can see her face and then looks very smug), the audience, and even in their ignorance they don’t Appear to be ignoring anything, they appear Caught by us, as if through a keyhole. This is the norm now, but it seems to me a great step in a new direction then. There are many more cuts, showing different characters in their different situations, quickly one to the next, rather than focusing on a single scene and then moving on to the next scene. This is a firm step away from theater, where such cuts are simply not possible. Next, strides in movement, for the first take(?) of the film, the credits, is of two of the characters horseback riding–but not viewed from a distance, rather, viewed up close, alongside or before, such action, such movement of the camera itself is wildly new–reminds me of the horseback scenes by Feuillade, always stationary, the stationary shot in contemporary film being the more artistic one, the moving camera being overused and easy to overlook. Rudolph Valentino is a pure sex-symbol, he carries himself unlike any character I’ve seen so far, he is not in the film, he is merely alive–silent films are not lacking sound, rather, they don’t Need it at all, and he is the greatest proof of that without being overbearing, far from vaudevillian, he can be subtle, just as his co-star Kathleen Kirkham, who I’d like to fuck except she died in 1961, carries herself–something about tossing a woman into a thin nightgown and a rumpled bed really does it for me, when her hair is messy and down…yes, there was modern beauty in 1918. And this film is quite risque for the time too, judging by the other films that, when it’s time for a kiss, a crowd rushes in to block the viewer from seeing, this film has playful kisses, real ones, and introduces Mrs. McMillan by saying she’s too caught up in her extra-marital affairs to look after those of her home. I enjoy these films far more than I enjoy contemporary films–but really, it’s no good, falling in love with dead women.

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