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on February 27, 2008
It has been eight years since this significant work from Lois Weber (1879-1939) first appeared on VHS as part of Kino's FIRST LADIES: EARLY WOMEN FILMMAKERS series along with THE RED KIMONA from Mrs Wallace Reid (Dorothy Davenport) and Alice Guy-Blache's THE OCEAN WAIF. That series is finally making it to DVD and it's about time.

HYPOCRITES dates from 1915 and tackles not only moral hypocrisy but religious materialism as well. The film is allegorical in nature as it contrasts the story of a present day (1915) minister and his wealthy congregation with a medieval monk who causes a furor when he creates a statue of Truth depicted as a naked woman. Parts in both stories are played by the same actors. The monk is killed by an outraged mob while the minister expires after his sermon on hypocrisy. In between are a series of vignettes showing the hypocrisy of the congregation when confronted with the "naked truth". Not exactly conventional filmmaking nor particularly subtle by today's standards but HYPOCRITES remains a remarkable effort not only for when it was made but for how it was made. Weber's use of multiple exposures and sophisticated editing helped to make her one of the major figures of the silent era. Within a year she would be the highest paid director in the world pulling down $5000 a week. Within 10 years she would be all but forgotten and most of her films would disappear forever.

Although these DVDs won't be released until April it appears that are they exactly the same as the VHS versions which means that these films will not have undergone any significant restoration. HYPOCRITES suffers from some serious nitrate decomposition in places but is more than watchable as long as you are aware of that fact. This print was preserved in the Library Of Congress and for the time being it's all we have. Rounding out this release is Cleo Madison's 1916 short film ELEANOR'S CATCH. The FIRST LADIES series is historically important and deserves to be on DVD. Silent film aficionados will find much to admire here and should have all 3 titles in their collections but these films are not for the public at large unless you're interested in the careers of early women filmmakers.

P.S. - The DVDs have just been released (4/22) and the good news is that while restorations were not done on these films (it's doubtful that much could be done), the images are much sharper and detailed than on the old VHS tapes. Thank you Kino.
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on May 20, 2008
"Hypocrites" stands out as the most special and unusual of the five films in this "First Ladies - Early Women Filmmakers" series by Kino Video, but it is just what I had expected of Lois Weber, who wrote and directed this `shocking and controversial film' in 1915. As America's first and most prolific female director of the silent era, Lois Weber should be better remembered than she is, but only a few of her films have survived, which makes "Hypocrites" a special treat. Weber was known for addressing all kinds of social and moral issues in her films, and the mere title of this film is already a clear indication of the soul-searching message she sought to convey to the public. But the message is veiled in symbolism and requires some deeper thought to fully appreciate and understand how hypocrisy is found in every aspect of our lives. One of the controversial issues in 1915 when this film was released was the nude young woman - albeit transparent and ghostly - who represents `the virgin truth' which most people find shocking because their mentality and way of life have become so far removed from plain, simple honesty. Dishonesty and corruption as found in politics, high society and in family life are laid bare in the Virgin Truth's mirror, and parallel stories depict other aspects, such as the Biblical account of taking the broad road which is easy, or the narrow way which is difficult.

It may come across as an overbearing lecture - just as the opening scenes which show a sincere minister giving a sermon on hypocrisy, only to find his congregation squirming, angry and uneasy, and even seeking to get rid of him afterwards. But as a rare glimpse into the mind and work of Lois Weber, as well as an historic statement about mentality and early cinema, "Hypocrites" is a valuable film. Unfortunately, some scenes especially at the beginning show some deterioration which can't be restored, but for the most part the picture is good and clear, and it is accompanied by a nice, suitable piano score. After 50 minutes of seeing how false and hypocritical the world is, the second 15-minute film on this DVD, "Eleanor's Catch" feels like a breeze, with a simple, short story and an unexpected twist at the end. A popular actress in the 1910s, Cleo Madison also directed many films, and in this 1916 short film, she made a statement for women's equality in the workforce, making this also a landmark film fit for the "First Ladies" series.
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This terrific DVD has two very interesting pictures on it: Hypocrites written and directed by Lois Weber and Eleanor's Catch directed by Lois Weber and Cleo Madison. The plots for both films move along rather well; I was certainly never bored. The quality of the print for Hypocrites was not too good especially in the first fifteen or so minutes of the film; I'm sorry to see that this is the restored version of the print! As for Eleanor's Catch, however, we get a film that has been preserved far better; and it has some great surprise action along the way that kept my interest going. The casting for both films was rather well done, too. This DVD is of particular import because the two films here were directed by women at a time when women lacked true power in Hollywood just as they lacked power in almost all other fields, too. Moreover, there are very few surviving films directed by Lois Weber and Cleo Madison despite the fact that they turned out quite a few films; their work was largely lost over time. What a shame!

In Hypocrites, this excellent film starts with a minister (Courtenay Foote) giving a sermon in Church about hypocrisy and the importance of Truth. Unfortunately, his message is largely lost on the churchgoers who are bored or even asleep during his sermon! After the service is over there's even talk amongst the members of getting rid of the minister by asking for his resignation. The minister is also upset; he wants his church members to truly value Truth--and it is from this point that the movie progresses to show that the path to Truth and morality is literally an uphill battle that may cost you your more worldly goods; but of course the moral of the story is that Truth is worth it. As you may know, there was a somewhat scandalous aspect to this film; Truth is portrayed by a naked woman. Thus we can see The Naked Truth!

The film then jumps backward in time to what looks like the medieval era; we see Gabriel the Ascetic (also played by Courtenay Foote) who painstakingly crafts a sculpture of pure Truth--in the form of a naked woman. Outraged, the crowd that has gathered to see the sculpture promptly murders Gabriel by stoning and spearing him; but this is not all. The final segment of the film holds much for us to see.

In addition, Eleanor's catch is also very well done. We meet Eleanor (director Cleo Madison) who lives in the slums with her mother (Lule Warrenton). Eleanor and her mother get by as they wash other people's clothes; so when the sharp, smooth talking "Flash" Darcy (William V. Mong) comes into her life Eleanor is thrilled to have a man who gives her things like fancy dresses and a night out on the town. Of course, this makes Eleanor's steady boyfriend "Red" (Edward Hearn) quite jealous and another issue arises when we meet Eleanor's poverty stricken sister Jennie (Margaret Whistler), who has been reduced to begging on the street for small change. As is the case with Hypocrites, the way the story plays out is fascinating.

There are no extra features; but these two films are really very good and they stand well on their own.

Overall, Hypocrites and Eleanor's Catch are strong movies from two female directors who were successful in Hollywood at a time when women were not exactly powerful. Lois Weber and Cleo Madison deserve to be remembered well for their outstanding work in motion pictures; and this DVD proves that they had genius. I highly recommend this DVD for silent movie fans; and people who enjoy movies directed by women during the silent film era will find this to be a solid addition to their DVD collections.
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on May 11, 2011
Hypocrites is a very interesting and quirky film. From the start I noticed the music that accompanied the film and it is spot on, especially for the audience's pleasure. The film shocked me at times due to the naked woman that leads the viewer into the Gates of Truth--I was shocked that in 1915, a director could pull that off! This film was fascinating and I'd love to see it again to analyze it in greater detail. I loved the way the film followed every day people and revealed his or her own hypocrisy with Christian undertones. It's hilarious to me how true this film resonates in today's society; so much of what people claim to be isn't in fact true. I found myself laughing out loud at how pathetic the congregation was, especially the part when they are all leaving the church and a few bystanders talk about removing the pastor. Through a series of vignettes this story is told in quirky ways. I especially liked whenever the naked woman would appear on the screen--she reminded me of the green fairy from Moulin Rouge! I thought it was rather symbolic to portray a woman leading the viewer to the various vignettes, revealing the hypocrisy of so many people. I was shocked at how controversial this film really is due to the year it was made. I truly think this film will have affect for years to come and it is worthy of extensive study. This film sparked my interest for more Lois Weber films and I think it will to many more viewers. The silent era of film is a remarkable time in film history and this film really stands out. Through sophisticated editing and exposure this film is quite enjoyable. This film is so unusual, I haven't seen anything like it before. I'm so astonished that we are so lucky to have films like this still around. I highly recommend this film!
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on May 11, 2011
After watching Hypocrites, it is interesting to me that even in the early years of filmmaking, movies could be extremely complex and thought provoking. Hypocrites is definitely those two things. The writer and director of the film, Lois Weber, uses the characters of a preacher and Truth (portrayed as a naked woman) to reveal the hypocrisy of society. Though Weber's intentions were most likely to speak on morality, it is interesting that she chose to use a fully nude woman throughout the film to draw in an audience that would not have otherwise seen the film. It was also surprising to me that this film would have been viewed by religious audiences with such unapologetic nudity. However, I will say that whatever could be viewed as indecent may have been made up for by the moral of the film. As the preacher succumbs to a dream, he is taken to an earlier time when he first finds Truth. The preacher then goes around aiming to show Truth to people, only to get rejected every time. In each situation, Truth reveals the true character of people to be corrupt. I feel that the overall story of the film was very well written. However, I found it a little bit difficult to get into the film because of the melodramatic style of acting. Because there was no sound in film at the time, the acting seemed to be more expressive and a lot less realistic. If anything made this film difficult to watch, it would be that. Although, overall I enjoyed the film and felt that Weber was successful in presenting her case of morality. I would be interested in seeing what a modern cast and crew could do with the story. I would love to see someone else's spin on it.'
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on July 13, 2014
very good
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on March 12, 2015
Not what I expected.
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