Four Silent Shorts: Lot in Sodom (1933), L’Etoile De Mer (1928), The Life and Death of 9413: A Hollywood Extra (1928), Le Retour à la Raison (1923).

Something a bit different for today. After watching Häxan (1922), my passion for silent film has been rekindled. I’ve been watching a lot of short silent films, so I thought I’d post quick paragraph reviews for four that I’ve most recently watched.

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Lot in Sodom (1933)
James Sibley Watson, 28 minutes

Lot in Sodom portrays the classic Biblical tale of Sodom and Gomorrah, but with an avant-garde twist. From the very beginning of this film, you can tell that this is not your average Biblical retelling. The tone is fluid and surreal, with beautiful, dream-like visual effects. I know next to nothing about the original story, so I wasn’t able to follow the events as easily as someone who might have more Bible knowledge, but I think this gave me the space to interpret the story on my own terms. There are depictions of homosexuality, there is some brief nudity, and some sexually suggestive behaviours that must have been fairly confronting back in 1933. Watching the film now, it looks like a beautiful dance. I really enjoyed this one because it constantly stunned me with its visuals.

P.S. Thank you to the wonderful Literary Vittles for recommending this one to me!

4/5

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L’Etoile De Mer (1928)
Man Ray, 16 minutes

This film is structured around a poem written by Robert Desnos, and consists of a vague narrative where a young man considers his love for a young woman. This semi-story seems to suggest that the young man is intimidated by the source of his affections – but I could be totally wrong. The film is replete with beautiful surrealist imagery. Some shots are viewed through what seems to be a totally warped pane of glass, prompting the viewer to consider whether those scenes are a dream, or whether the in-focus scenes are the dream – or whether any of it is a dream at all. I watched the version of this film with music composed by Paul Mercer, which was perfect and so evocative of the tone of the film.

3.5/5

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The Life and Death of 9413: A Hollywood Extra (1928)
Robert Florey, Slavko Vorkapić, 11 minutes

The Life and Death of 9413: A Hollywood Extra follows the story of a young man who comes to Hollywood with the dream of becoming a famous actor. Instead, he is relegated to the ranks of ‘extra’, and is given a low-ranking number upon his forehead. We follow him as he attempts to gain work in the industry. This film is quite obvious and unsubtle in the points that it makes, and it’s very easy to follow. Some moments seem cliché, or overdone, until you realise that this might well have been the first time those moments occurred on screen. My favourite elements of this film were the papercraft designs showing the streets and buildings of Hollywood. It’s clear that the film was completed on a tiny budget, but its craftiness adds to its charm. Definitely one to watch.

3/5

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Le Retour à la Raison (1923)
Man Ray, 3 minutes

The title of this one translates to Return to Reason. The film is more of an experimental short and has no linear narrative. It consists of different textures, objects, brief clips of the lights of a carousel at night time, and the marvellous naked torso of Kiki de Montparnasse. Reflecting on the title of the short, it makes a lot of sense, since watching all the strange textures and objects flashing on the screen made me feel like I was going crazy. To see the natural, organic shape of a human body made my brain feel a lot more calm. I returned to reason. That Man Ray really knew what he was doing.

3/5

15 comments

  1. Oh! I want to see the Hollywood extra one 🙂 if I may I’d recommend ‘Regen’ a Dutch short about the rain, very poetic.

    1. Awesome, I’ll have a look for that one! Really loving short films at the moment.

  2. I am definitely going to find these shorts! I’m a fan of short films yet i never really went so far back to the 1920s (except for the obvious Méliès and several others).

    1. You should have a watch of them, they’re all great! Short films from the 20s are really interesting because they seem to be so experimental. Some of the camera tricks are stunning. I’m loving it.

  3. Victor De Leon · · Reply

    These look really good. Lot in Sodom sounds amazing. Thanks for sharing these shorts!

    1. You’re welcome! Happy to share, that’s how I learned about the existence of Lot in Sodom in the first place. 🙂 What an amazing little film.

  4. Nice work. I have only seen (and loved) the second Man Ray short. There are a bunch of Buster Keaton and DW Griffiths shorts on my site if you have a search (assuming the youtube channels have not been taken down).

    1. Thanks! I might have to take a sneaky peek at the Keaton and Griffiths shorts! From what I can see, they’ve been taken down, but I’ll see if I can find them around and about.

      1. It is so frustrating embedding videos. I take care not to post anything that is under copyright. But people who post that stuff also seem to often post material under copyright and get shut down.

  5. I’ve seen Man Ray’s work. He was a talented photographer. So great you really listen to recommendations 🙂

    1. His photography is gorgeous! Definitely looking forward to seeing more of his film work. I love recommendations! 🙂

  6. Yay!! I’m flattered that you took my recommendation and furthermore that you enjoyed Lot in Sodom!! I had to write an analyical essay on it for a film class so it’s one I won’t be forgetting anytime soon haha. The Hollywood Extra sounds intriguing – I will have to watch that sometime.

    1. Thanks again for the recommendation! 🙂 I really loved it – I imagine there was so much you could write about!

      1. Yeah maybe I should post part of my paper sometime! Again, glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

  7. […] theme is. Lots of eyes, crystals and reflections. It feels like a longer, more elaborate version of Le Retour à la Raison (1923), except this one is more […]

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