Combustible Celluloid
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With: Paul Wegener, Albert Steinrück, Lyda Salmonova, Ernst Deutsch, Hans Stürm, Max Kronert, Otto Gebühr, Dore Paetzold, Lothar Müthel, Greta Schröder, Loni Nest
Written by: Henrik Galeen, Paul Wegener, based on a novel by Gustav Meyrink
Directed by: Carl Boese, Paul Wegener
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 82
Date: 10/29/1920

The Golem (1920)

3 Stars (out of 4)

A Report from SFIFF

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Directed by Paul Wegener, who also plays the Golem (and co-directed by Carl Boese), this film is a good, but not quite great, example of German Expressionist horror. Of course, Wegener denied that he was making an Expressionist film, though, and critic Lotte Eisner points out that the film's skewed rooftops and slanted buildings actually enhance the realism of the Jewish ghetto. But unlike The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) or Nosferatu (1922), The Golem also has its share of plain, ordinary filmed sequences against ordinary backdrops; it's not quite as streamlined or as resonantly off-kilter. But certain scenes, such as the summoning of the magic word from the evil demon, are as stunningly effective as anything made at the time. Francis' noise-driven score (complete with vocals and actual take-away songs) raises the level of drama to an aggressive yowl, although he doesn't make use of his old "loudQUIETloud" technique quite as one would expect. The show actually plays much like an album, with a few seconds of silence between each song, although a snarky narrator occasionally cracks jokes about the images onscreen (this I could have done without). Some of the instrumental pieces are quite astounding, and reminded me of Neil Young's Dead Man score, with that painful, yearning wailing, like the sound of a wounded, melancholy dog. If you're still curious, I've been told -- though I have not confirmed -- that Francis will be releasing a DVD of his score (mainly since The Golem is available in the public domain).

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