John Ford – The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

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The Grapes of Wrath tells the powerful story of the Joad family’s trek from the dust bowl of Oklahoma to the fertile but futile fields of California in the early 1930s. Driven by the live rhythms of the Joel Rafael Band, this heart-wrenching award- winning adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel finds its timeless heart in the generous spirit of the common man. Continue reading

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Ivan Pyryev – Traktoristy AKA Tractor Drivers [1939 original version] (1939)

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From Mosfilm:
A musical comedy.
The mid 30s. Klim Yarko, a demobilized tank driver from the Far East returns to the Ukraine collective farm where Maryana Bazhan, his long-standing love, lives. But Maryana is a famous tractor-driver of the vicinity and her admirers are legion. In attempt to get rid of them she invents a story of her love to Nazar, a butch and bummer. Klim, a simple soul, finds himself in a complicated situation but finally due to his sincerity and industry he wins sympathies of the whole farm and the famous Maryana’s love. Continue reading

Ivan Pyryev – Partiinyi bilet AKA The Party Card (1936)

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Everything seems swell when a young Siberian moves to Moscow, finds work in a factory, joins the Communist Party, and marries a beautiful young Bolshevik girl. But when the girl loses her all-important party card (i.e. identification papers), the Siberian’s dark past comes to light…Commissioned in the wake of Kirov’s assassination (in which an assassin got access to Kirov’s office with a stolen party card), this is both a fantastic melodrama and a chilling work of propaganda. Continue reading

Mikio Naruse – Tsuma yo bara no yô ni AKA Wife! Be Like a Rose! (1935)

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The effervescent and charming Chiba Sachiko (Naruse’s wife at the time) plays Kimiko, the bold daughter who travels to the countryside to find her estranged father to seek his consent for her forthcoming marriage . When Kimiko discovers that her father has taken up with a young geisha and is just as difficult as ever, her journey forces her to reconsider her ideas about familial ties. The film was Naruse’s biggest success to date and one of his warmest films. WIFE, BE LIKE A ROSE! won first place in Kinema Junpo that year and became one of the exceedingly rare Naruse films to earn distribution in the US. Continue reading

Sergei M. Eisenstein – Aleksandr Nevskiy [+Extras] (1938)

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From Criterion Collection:

Eisenstein drew on history, Russian folk narratives, and the techniques of Walt Disney to create this broadly painted epic of Russian resilience. This story of Teutonic knights vanquished by Prince Alexander Nevsky’s tactical brilliance resonated deeply with a Soviet Union concerned with the rise of Nazi Germany. Widely imitated—most notably by Laurence Olivier’s Battle of Agincourt re-creation for Henry V —the Battle on the Ice scene remains one of the most famous audio-visual experiments in film history, perfectly blending action with the rousing score of Sergei Prokofiev. Continue reading

Hiroshi Shimizu – Tokyo no eiyu AKA A Hero of Tokyo (1935)

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“This late silent film is little more than an hour long, and achieves a narrative concentration and emotional intensity which place it among the neglected gems of the Japanese cinema of the 1930s. The story focuses on the widower Nemoto, ostensibly a businessman, who has one son, Kanichi, the hero of the title. Nemoto remarries; his new wife is a widow with a son and daughter of her own. However, Nemoto’s business turns out to be out a shady scam, and he disappears, leaving his wife to raise the three children alone. In order to support the family, she is obliged to become a bar hostess. She conceals this shameful employment from the children, but the truth comes out years later, after her daughter is rejected by her husband’s family when they investigate her background. The film contains powerful performances from Mitsugu Fujii, here making the last of his regular appearances for Shimizu, and Mitsuko Yoshikawa, a specialist in the haha-mono (“mother-film”) genre. Continue reading

Charles Chaplin – City Lights (1931)

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Quote:
The Tramp meets a poor blind girl selling flowers on the streets and falls in love with her. The blind girl mistakes him for a millionaire. Since he wants to help her and doesn’t want to disappoint her, he keeps up the charade. He befriends a drunk millionaire, works small jobs like street sweeping, and enters a boxing contest, all to raise money for an operation to restore her sight.

CHAPLIN HILARIOUS IN HIS ‘CITY LIGHTS'; Tramp’s Antics in Non-Dialogue Film Bring Roars of Laughter at Cohan Theatre. TAKES FLING AT “TALKIES” Pathos Is Mingled With Mirth in a Production of Admirable Artistry.

Charlie Chaplin, master of screen mirth and pathos, presented at the George M. Cohan last night before a brilliant gathering his long-awaited non-dialogue picture, “City Lights,” and proved so far as he is concerned the eloquence of silence. Many of the spectators either rocking in their seats with mirth, mumbling as their sides ached, “Oh, dear, oh, dear,” or they were stilled with sighs and furtive tears. And during a closing episode, when the Little Tramp sees through the window of a flower shop the girl who has recovered her sight through his persistence, one woman could not restrain a cry. Continue reading

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