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Customer Review

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unforgettable, November 15, 2003
This review is from: Tempest (DVD)
I consider this film to be a prime example of how truly powerful an impact silent film can have on the viewer. This was the first noncomedic silent I can recall seeing--about 30 years ago on local TV--and I only caught the end of it, including the tremendous prison confrontation scene. In the intervening years, I never forgot that scene, and noticed when it was imitated in other romantic melodramas (e.g., 'The English Patient' and the saffron thimble bit).
When the upcoming DVD release was described, I realized that this probably was the movie that had haunted me all these years. And it was! I was thrilled to finally be able to see the whole thing--and it didn't disappoint, even though it had to compete with powerful old impressions.
I'm very grateful to David Shepard for this release--and to the great Philip Carli, whose piano score is magisterial. The cobbled-together orchestral soundtrack is OK--mostly snatches of stuff like the waltz from "Eugene Onegin"--but the sound quality is not up to modern standards; oddly enough, I found that more distracting than the occasional visually scratchy portions of the print. Carli's performance and score are, as usual, as elegant as the images (and that's saying something with this film), but never distract from them.
Barrymore's inescapably "aristocratic" looks do sometimes interfere with the suspension of disbelief, but he overcomes this handicap--and not with a resort to grotesque makeup, but with a truly committed and engaged performance, overcoming even the more serious handicap of his age.
Cinematographer Rosher's interview in Kevin Brownlow's great book "The Parade's Gone By" mentions that "Barrymore was especially pleased with [the cameraman's Rosher Kino Portrait Lens] because its softness smoothed away his dewlaps. For the first time he could be photographed properly full-face; before they had to favor the famous profile." Barrymore's mad scene is another example of great acting working in tandem with great cinematography.
The ending is quite abrupt, but all that comes before is completely satisfying. If you are in the mood for a good, old fashioned romantic epic, you can't do better than this movie!
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