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 What's astounding is to think that audiences at the time would have found the silent sections old-fashioned or out of date, when with 2013 eyes it's the sound sections that are clearly creaky and weak, literally halting the otherwise kinetic camera/background action.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.
★★★★★ review by Emily on Letterboxd
I have a lot to say about this wonderful little movie, but I just don’t know how to say it. I do know that I loved it!
★★★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.
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