The Dragon Painter
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This gem of Asian-American cinema is restored by the George Eastman House Motion Picture Department, with a new digital master with original tinting, and new ensemble score by Mark Izu. Many special features are included.
'THE DRAGON PAINTER was one of the first films to present a Japanese aesthetic to an American audience. The performances by Hayakawa and Tsuru Aoki are a revelation.' --Stephen Gong, Pacific Film Archive
'A silent classic!' --Seattle News Tribune
'A masterful blend of lyricism and entertainment!' --Salt Lake City Deseret News
- Special Features:
- Restored by the George Eastman House Motion Picture Department
- New digital master featuring original tinting
- New ensemble score by composer Mark Izu
- Full-length Feature: Thomas Ince's "The Wrath of the Gods" (1914. 60 mins.)
- Comedy short "Screen Snapshots" (1921. 5 mins.)
- Stills gallery
- "How to Build Your Own Volcano" featurette
- Mary McNeil Fenollosa's novel "The Dragon Painter"
- "Hollywood's First Asian Cycle", an essay by film historian Brian Taves
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The real treasure here though is the even rarer WRATH OF THE GODS also from George Eastman House. A major American produced film featuring Asian actors (Hayakawa, Aoki and others) in 1914 seems incredibly enlightened when you think of all the "yellow peril" parts that were just a few years down the road. The story borrows elements from MADAME BUTTERFLY and BIRD OF PARADISE and features future director Frank Borzage (SEVENTH HEAVEN) in one of his early acting roles. WRATH was produced by Thomas Ince who was one of the major players in the movie industry's early days but is remembered today only for his mysterious death involving William Randolph Hearst's yacht in 1924 and for the studio he built which would later become Cecil B. DeMille's and then David O. Selznick's. This is really a shame because as WRATH and an earlier title from 1916 (CIVILIZATION which has yet to make it to DVD) show, Ince's surviving films are very advanced for their time in their realistic portrayal of serious subjects and their no nonsense approach to quality filmmaking. Both films have been properly tinted and have atmospheric new Japanese style scores.
Once again thanks are due to Milestone Films for making important rarely seen silent movies available for home viewing. Hopefully all their distribution problems are now worked out so that we can expect to see a flurry of Milestone releases in the near future. They haven't issued a catalogue in some time nor updated their website and there were quite a few announced titles that have yet to appear on DVD. Welcome back Milestone, silent film fans have missed you.
But this is only the beginning of realizing what an outstanding talent Hayakawa must have been, because in the second feature film on this DVD he plays yet another challenging role in a much earlier, 1914 film called "The Wrath of the Gods", which was produced by one of Hollywood's filmmaking pioneers, Thomas Ince. It is always exciting to see a full-length (in this case 60 minutes) film from this early period, especially when they already show exceptionally advanced style and structure. This becomes more evident when seeing the complete script for the film, available in DVD-ROM format in the bonus material, and reading just a few paragraphs of it shows a remarkable and surprising depth of detail which many film historians apparently hadn't anticipated, such as directions to the cameraman on angle and lighting, and every minute acting gesture as well as dialogues for the actors, even though their words are not heard and only a few basic intertitles are used to explain the story. Like "the Dragon Painter", this early film is also full of Japanese flavour, with traditional costumes and themes right out of Japanese culture, religion and traditions. It also has a superb Japanese-style musical score, and the picture quality of both films is very good, although just a little hazy or scratchy at times which is easily overlooked however, due to the picturesque scenes (The Dragon Painter being partly filmed in stunning Yosemite Valley) and the elegant and exotic oriental style of both films. For a rare taste of Japanese culture made in Hollywood, or to appreciate the early work of a fine and special actor, this DVD is a special treat not to be missed.
This film is a must-see for silent film fans, and serves as a wonderful introduction to the silent era for those unfamiliar with early film.
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