Francis Ford Coppola's slick promotion of this silent epic by Abel Gance has established it as the crowning achievement of silent film in many minds, yet it would have had a hard time making a ten-best list for 1927, following such genuine masterworks as Sunrise, The Circus, and Docks of New York. The case for the film rests on condescending attitudes, namely that Gance in his genius anticipated many of the formal devices (swish pans, handheld shots, split screens) that were briefly in vogue in the 70s. Gance clearly identifies with his visionary hero, and the film's best moments come when the director's ego explosions are matched with his characters', yet apart from the fireworks the film is blocky, arrhythmic, and resolutely superficial. (DK) Note: The 240-minute U.S. version, unlike the one shown overseas, excises a complete subplot.
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