Two lonely people in the big city meet and enjoy the thrills of an amusement park, only to lose each other in the crowd after spending a great day together. Will they ever see each other again?
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★★★★ review by laird on Letterboxd
A gross reinforcement of heteronormative values and the lie of the American Dream... is how I would describe this if I was dead inside. Instead I sat there grinning like a dope for the majority of this charming late silent/early sound feature. What's astounding is to think that audiences at the time would have found the silent sections old-fashioned or out of date, when with 2013 eyes it's the sound sections that are clearly creaky and weak, literally halting the otherwise kinetic camera/background action. If anything, Lonesome suffers for attempting to wedge some third act dramatic conflict where none is really needed. I would have been perfectly fine watching a movie about two people meeting each other and falling in love, riding some carnival rides, then going home, the end.
★★★½ review by Wesley R. Ball on Letterboxd
You got to let me go! I don't know that girl's name, but I love her!
Sometimes, I think it's impossible to hate the vast majority of most silent films. They're just so innovative for their time, and pioneered a whole wave of newfound entertainment for generations of people the world over. Sometimes I probably even give a silent film a free pass because of their ingenuity. Paul Fejos's Lonesome is about as innovative as silent films come. Feeding off of the popularity of Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer, the film has some scenes of recorded dialogue. And oh my word, it was pretty cheesy and terrible. Like, the whole film was pretty much perfect as a straight up silent film, until we got to the few scenes that had audible dialogue. It just seemed too flat and not convincing enough in the audible dialogue's execution, it was almost cringeworthy in its presentation.
The most innovative thing about this film, however, would have to be the color. A couple of the Coney Island scenes where the couple is just sitting alone, gazing at the sunset, were gorgeous, simply put. I can't deny how artistic the color usage was in these scenes, but they sadly don't last too long. It doesn't help things when we get jolted back to the unconvincing audible dialogue either. Perhaps Fejos's film would've turned out better if it was all just silent with a beautiful accompanying score and gorgeous color scenes.
Lonesome isn't a terrible silent film, but it really isn't anywhere near my favorite. I appreciate how Fejos tried to add some genuine originality through mixing silent with sound, but Chaplin did it far better with Modern Times. The color tinting, however, is undeniably gorgeous, and is the best part of the film. This one is worth a watch, if only for the cultural and historical value.
★★★★½ review by Sean Gilman on Letterboxd
A masterpiece of late silent cinema, a city symphony linked not by hard cuts like the Soviet montage of Dziga Vertov's Man with a Movie Camera, but by much more humane dissolves. The sense of city as machine, as menace, as impenetrable, destructive crowd is still there, especially in the confetti-strewn carnival scenes, which look like Sunrise's Luna Park sequence as directed by Josef von Sternberg, but the dissolves reveal the romantic heart lying underneath it all, fulfilled by the O. Henry ending (riffed on extensively in Johnnie To's Turn Left, Turn Right). Fejos in an interview from Criterion's liner notes: "It sounds corny, but let's say that it was high corn."
There are three short talking sequences which are absolutely abysmal. The dialogue is terrible, the acting stiff and slow, the camera, which is a constant vulgar whir through the rest of the film is stately, removed and fixed. The scenes look like they were filmed on another planet, one that just learned how to talk and can therefore only do so in the most basic, ludicrous banalities.
The sequences are so bad they prove how silly it is to complain about movie dialogue in the first place, how inessential talking is to cinema. Dialogue is another, wholly alien, art form, grafted onto movies for the sake of a phony verisimilitude and increasing the box office take. Unfortunately, talking pictures, unlike the similarly motivated and useless and already dying 3D craze, appear to be here to stay.
★★★½ review by Raul Marques on Letterboxd
"I'm so tired of being alone that I can't even stand my own company".
Oh thanks 1928 movie that I randomly decided to watch, that was exactly what I needed today.
A narratively slight, excitingly directed unusual early romantic comedy that's a little bit more interested in the mundane as opposed to the fantastic, that, of course, despite the fact that plenty of delightfully heightened sequences make up the bulk of its breezy 70 minutes. Not something essential, but thoroughly engaging for what it's discreetly exploring thematically, as well as its experimentation of tinted photography, modern editing and sparse dialog.
★★★★½ review by TajLV on Letterboxd
Part of my Roaring Twenties Project
Budapest-born director Pál Fejös made this film under contract with Universal Pictures. He cleverly shows us the lives of two big city workers -- an industrial punch press operator named Jim (Glenn Tryon) and a switchboard operator named Mary (Barbara Kent). Fejös switches back and forth between the two characters to show us their morning routines, how they get to work and the repetitive nature of their jobs, and he uses the transposed face of a clock so we can see what they are up to at the same time. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like that before.
Both Mary and Jim have lots of friends, all of whom seem to be in romantic relationships. After work, the singles go home alone to their separate and lonesome lives. But when a band wagon passes by their windows, announcing "free rides to fun at the beach," the two bored 20-somethings each decide to grab a ride and leave their troubles behind.
There's plenty of gaiety at the seaside amusement park, with throngs of people eating ice cream, enjoying carnival games and looking for hook-ups. One stranger (Eddie Phillips) is a little too fresh, and Mary has to dissuade him with a hat pin. Jim notices Mary, too, and tries to hit on her, but she thinks he's a bit too aggressive and tries to lose him in the crowd. Undeterred, Jim does all he can to impress her, including doing handstands on the beach. At last she gives in to his persistence. They strike up a conversation and she discovers he's not so bad at all.
Splashing around in the surf, sharing information about their jobs, dreams and aspirations, they wile away the afternoon till sunset. Then they enjoy the funhouse mirrors, the various motion rides, and Jim wins her a doll at an arcade game. They get their photos taken. They have their fortunes told, and Jim works up the courage to hold Mary's hand. They go dancing. Throughout all of these sequences, the camerawork and editing is simply superb for the time this was made.
Eventually, Jim starts to run out on money. On the roller-coaster called "Jackrabbit Racer," they get separated. Try as they might, they can't find each other among the bustling masses. Again, expert camerawork conveys the frantic search and irony of how close they are, yet how lost, as a storm begins to brew. Balloons go flying away on the gusty winds; people flee for cover from the lightening and thunder. Better to have loved and lost...? This is pretty amazing stuff for a silent film, right?
I won't spoil the fun by revealing the ending, but let's say it does justice to all that has come before. I was also floored by seeing Andy Devine in a small part as Jim's friend. It was only his second credited role in an acting career that would span six decades and 110 films. Wow. Mark this down as must-see entertainment from the silent era. It's a winner!
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