best film: Nosferatu from Murnau. Nosferatu is an essential masterpiece- a landmark in horror cinema, German expressionism, and Murnau’s wonderful body of work as an auteur. It is an unauthorized adaptation (much like Ossessione from Visconti in 1943)—this is Bram Stoker’s 1897 work Dracula. Murnau designs the lighting, the silhouettes and dramatically stylized sets—and Max Schreck is simply horrifying in the lead.
most underrated: Foolish Wives from von Stroheim is underrated at #697 on the TSPDT consensus list. I have it nearly 400 slots lower- at #268. I have it virtually tied with Greed as von Stroheim’s best work. Foolish Wives does not have the artistic high-water marks that Greed does but, unlike Greed, it is available in its full version/vision so it still might be his greatest surviving work.
most overrated: TSPDT only has five films from 1922 in the top 2000 and the only one I don’t have as underrated or correctly rated is Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North and I don’t judge, watch, or evaluate documentary films. The other four are Nosferatu, Mabuse, Foolish Wives and Haxan.
gem I want to spotlight: Haxan from Christensen
- It’s an ambitious work- both thematically and stylistically- from Christensen—Denmark
- Story told in 7 chapters
- In told in an essay style- I think Christensen sees himself almost as an educator- very didactic—he’s literally pointing things out (with a pointer) as we go through. It’s utterly fascinating stuff so that helps with his approach which is so pragmatic
- Artwork photographed, we also have the use of drawings and ornately designed miniatures
- Busy and beautiful mise-en-scene—animal skeletons and witches pot brewing
- No more a documentary than Oliver Stone’s JFK really—maybe slightly with sections where he’s it feels like he’s cataloging different torture weapons and devices
- The imagery really jumps off the screen at you—very strong film from a mise-en-scene standpoint
- A unique film- not just in the subject matter and how frank it is- but the style of Christensen’s voice—fictional recreations
- Photograph special effects manipulation (coins sequence and a few others)
- Cuts to close ups of the grotesque and those in horror both—does so frequently and effectively- both those doing the horrifying and those victim to it
- It’s a series of connected (through time) vignettes
- Meditation on the abuse of religion—there are some pre-Dreyer The Passion of Joan of Arc-like sequences
- The superimposed flying witches in the background with shadow (boy and owl in foreground) shot and sequence is a stunner
- Christensen is witty- I think many of the laughs (woman giving birth to ridiculous monster) is intentional—and some of the ridiculousness of the claims during the medieval era where we could have made it scary if he was going for the straight horror play
- Superstition turned horror
- Energetically edited- briskly told
- I do absolutely hate all the summarizing by Christensen—it’s 1922 but he should’ve had more faith in the audience—he does, though, have a good sense of humor which is odd how much it comes through given the subject
- Gorgeous final shot of witches/women burning
trends and notables: By 1922 the best work from Gish and Griffith are behind them—it is an off year for Chaplin (he’d come back in 1923) and Buster Keaton hasn’t started yet either in the archives (1923 as well). 1922 makes for the third year in a row that we’ve had a dark German expressionism film as the best film of the year (Caligari, Destiny, and Nosferatu). Three of the top six films are either from Murnau or Lang. Lang’s back to back 1921 and 1922 is worth talking about. Lang’s Dr. Mabuse The Gambler is a behemoth at 242 minutes but I found the world of the narrative to be extremely compelling and there are flashes of visual décor style and brilliance he would perfect in 1927’s Metropolis.
best performance male: Evil pervades this category in 1922. Max Schreck in Nosferatu, Erich von Stroheim as the Count Sergius Karamzin and Rudolf Klein-Rogge as the titular character in Mabuse give the performances of the year in 1922.
best performance female: Another skipped year here with nothing of note single out
- Foolish Wives
- Mabuse: The Gambler
- Robin Hood
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler – Lang||MS|
|Foolish Wives- von Stroheim||MS|
|Häxan – Christensen||HR|
|Robin Hood- Dwan||HR|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-See- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives