Thursday, August 19, 2010

Do or Do Not... There is No Try.

Many sci-fi fans love silent film--maybe because some of today's most popular, accessible silent films belong to the Science Fiction genre, or its sister-genres of high-geekery: Horror and Fantasy. Silents certainly provide the sort of weird imagery that pleases such fans, though it's not quite so weird as some of them think. More on that in a moment. I'm a sci-fi fan myself--not the convention-going type, but still a fan--and I love those images too.

Here's something for the silent-film-fan and science-fiction-fan alike. It's the famed Cloud City duel between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, culminating with Vader's revelation that he is (SPOILER) Luke Skywalker's dad.

This little film is one of many on YouTube, proving there's a renewed appetite for the silent aesthetic, even if it is through parody. That pleases me much. I particularly dig the Imperial logo on the intertitles and the convincingly-faked high contrast.

But then again, why the high contrast in the first place? Why the blurry images, when many silent films survive in pristine condition even today? Last night I watched a 100-year-old Mary Pickford film so clean it could have been made last week. LOTS of silent films look as good or better than films made in the Sound Era, yet the stereotype persists that they're foggy, dim or over-lit, torn and jumpy. For many people--even those who love these films enough to pay them homage or employ them for parody--the 'damaged look' is part of that aesthetic, rather than a barrier to its appreciation. They mean well, I guess.

One other thing: no real silent film would transcribe the dialogue of this scene so thoroughly. Luke's expression makes "No, that's not true! That's impossible!" superfluous--and that goes double for "HaaaaAAAAaaahh!" I know it's funnier that way, because we know the source material so well, but it's not true to the medium.

Artists, keep the parodies coming. I'm grateful to you. Just--please?--know your material a little better.

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