Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Jazz Singer

Last night I saw The Jazz Singer for the first time. That's right, the first talkie, at least for the general public and feature length. An interesting movie. Not sure where I'd gotten the impression that they did the "follow the bouncing ball" thing in it. (They don't.) There is blackface, though.

The movie was shown as part of a class but open to general viewing. The professor started off warning about the pacing of silent films since this is still largely in the mode of a silent film except for the singing interludes. I've only seen a few silent films, but somehow I'd never noticed bad pacing in them. It just never bothered me to have to stop and read half the dialog while the other half remained only mimed. Yes, even the 5th time through that movie about how Juliet Gordon Lowe started the Girl Scouts. (It's fun backwards, too.)

The Jazz Singer is more than just the first talkie. It is primarily about the life of a man, the son of immigrants, torn between the traditions he is brought up in and expected to continue and the opportunities that abound in the new world. With a father who refuses to understand the boy's hopes and dreams and a mother who gives what little support she can, the semi-autobiographical film tells a tale of conflicting emotions and responsibilities of old and new worlds that lead to the climax.