Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Man Who Laughs (1928), Paul Leni.

Who are the comprachicos?

Comprachicos, de même que comprapequenos, est un mot espagnol composé qui signifie «les achète-petits».  
Les comprachicos faisaient le commerce des enfants.

Ils en achetaient et ils en vendaient.

Ils n'en dérobaient point. Le vol des enfants est une autre industrie.

Et que faisaient-ils de ces enfants?

Des monstres.

Pourquoi des monstres?

Pour rire.

The principle characters in The Man Who Laughs is a family not related by blood but connected by each being survivors of fate, living on the fringes of 17th century English society:  a philosopher, Ursus, a loyal wolf named Homo, the mutilated child Gwynplaine and a baby found at the snowy base of a hanging ground.  If so far this sounds a little “out there,” this may not be your kind of silent movie.  The grotesque characters in this highly stylized film are evocative of a Daumier caricature or disturbing, primitively carved statuettes (see below):  let’s get a group of dirt-caked uglies and shine harsh lights on them!  These goblins think only of themselves and live in an unjust country.  While it's the comprachicos who slit Gwynplaine's mouth into a clown's grin, our strange little family seem to be the only people with any humanity.  If it were not for Conrad Veidt's performance of the sweet natured Gwynplaine, I think this movie would be completely soulless.

I swear I saw Ronald MacDonald in one frame.  If you thought you hated clowns now then buckle up because this movie’s stuffed with them.

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