Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Lonesome (1928)

A poetic city symphony and romantic drama directed by Hungarian filmmaker Paul Fejos, who was one of the European emigres who found a home at Universal Pictures at the end of the '20s. The film takes place in New York, and is a narrative exploration of urban alienation and the oppressive effects of modernity. Fejos focuses on a young man and woman -- he a factory worker, she a switchboard operator -- both of whom are individually ditched by their friends and each of whom decide to head to Coney Island for the night, where they meet and fall in love amid the bustling throng.

The majority of the film (which in total runs just over an hour) is set at Coney Island. As the boy and girl find companionship with each other, the overbearing intensity of Coney Island threatens to separate them physically. Fejos overloads every frame with hundreds of extras, tons of confetti, balloons, and other decorations. The camera never stops moving. It's really a dizzying experience. Fejos certainly captures the frantic pace of modern life in a big city, and the sense of alienation.

It's a great representation of several things going on in late silent era. It contains a strong mix of elements from the New York-set Hollywood films of that era, as well as the City Symphonies. The plot really is a trifle, and while I could accept it as a kind of "anytime, anyplace, anyone" parable, too much time is spent on the romance for me to accept it solely as a kind of metaphorical stand-in for universal experiences. But, it still has a charm and energy to it that makes a strong impression.

No comments: