J’accuse (1919)

I wasn’t really in any special mood for a lot of lengthy French films when I was watching all these a few weeks ago; that’s just how they came out of my backlog pile. But otherwise, yes, more long French filmmaking… this time from the legendary Abel Gance. This isn’t quite the “original 1919 version” the cover art mentions but it’s as near as we’ll likely get now; shot near the end of the war and released about six months after it, this is one of the first big war films ever made, but to some extent it’s even more of a romantic triangle story. Which means there’s a fair bit of melodrama to wade through, but goddamn it’s well done (would a Hollywood film on the same theme have countenanced one of the characters trying to kill a child? I suspect not)… and the film’s most famous scene, the return of the dead at the climax, still holds up remarkably well. Beautiful print quality on the DVD, too; I needed Flicker Alley’s issue of La Roue anyway (time to upgrade my old VHS copy), but this only confirmed that for me.

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