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Film Analysis of: The Big Parade, Baby Face, and Public Enemy

Film Analysis of some film Noirs.

 

Film Analysis

The Big Parade Film Analysis

                The big parade is a black and white silent film that stars a man named Jim as the main character. Jim is the son of a wealthy man that is anything but proud of him. However when World War I starts, Jim is convinced to enlist in to the army. Jim makes two friends named Slim and Bull, the three men are shipped to a village named Champillon where they meet a woman named Melisande. Jim and Melisande fall in love regardless of being unable to speak the same language. Jim and his unit are told to go to the front of the battle and must partake in trench warfare. Jim is shot in the leg and loses that leg, and when the war is over he goes to find Melisande and the two rush into each other’s arms.

            The film was made in the year 1925, during the silent film era. It was made a few years after the First World War and therefore society still needed time to get back on its feet. The purpose of the film was not to glorify war, but rather it was made to depict the occurrences of the first Great War. The film was one of the most popular and profitable film of its time and brought the audience’s popularity towards war films to an all-time high. The film influenced all war films that were made afterwards.  The film made more than twenty two million dollars worldwide, which was the most that a silent film had ever made. The film was overall a huge success due to the many aspects that it included not only war, but also a strong sense of love and friendship. However, not only was it popular for its plot but for its excellent acting. Silent films require a different method of acting that is very different from modern day acting. This is because communication cannot happen through sound and therefore must happen visually or through text. Since people come to watch films and not read slide after slide of text, actors must describe the scenes with vigorous body movements and emotion in order for the audience to understand what is going on. The acting in this film was excellent, the emotion and the body language used to portray dialogue was unmatched in any other silent film. You would think that silent films would require many slides with text in order to tell the story; this film however needs few if any slides of text at all to depict the storyline. Almost every scene in which Jim and Melisande are together is one where there requires no text at all due to their wonderful acting. Both in times of happiness and in times of sadness, Jim and Melisande movements will have energy and a hint of silliness to them when they are joyful, short quick movements in times of distress, and few to no movements when depressed. Even without all this body language, just looking at their faces will tell you exactly what they are feeling at that moment. Melisande’s and Jim’s eyes both light up at the sight of each other, eyebrows merge forcefully when something angers them, wrinkles on their forehead form when worried, and tears well up when they are separated. The two loved each other very much, so much that language was never a barrier, the actors showed this love with each scene throughout the film.

            Character development felt very rapid in this film. Jim started off as a normal man but after he joined the army things escalated quickly and he seemed to develop a stronger personality than when he was back at home. He took matters into his own hands such as when Jim, Slim, and Bull were at the river taking a bath, he built a shower system all on his own so that bathing was more efficient. Jim grew more confident and stronger with each obstacle that was thrown his way. This is especially true after he partakes in trench warfare in which he experiences the constant fear of death, and the death of his friends. When Jim comes home, he is no longer the same man he used to be. His sweetheart is with another man, but he doesn’t care he has Melisande, and he has no concern for anything other than Melisande. I personally enjoy seeing little concern for his family because his family has been nothing but uncaring and selfish towards him, especially his so called “sweetheart” who was supposed to wait for him but did not.

            The “Big Parade” can be interpreted as a variety of parades that take place throughout the movie. This includes the joyful parade at the beginning of the movie, the “parade” of medic cars transporting wounded soldiers, or even the parade of men in the army marching towards battle. The many parades can be interpreted differently throughout the movie and each parade correlates with the timeline of the film. The film starts out joyful and positive towards war with parades with loud music playing and cheerful crowds. However as the movie progresses these parades become more depressing as the reality of war sets in. The title “The Big Parade” couldn’t have been a better title for the film.    

            The film was extremely popular when it was first released and influenced all war films that were made afterwards.  The film made more than twenty two million dollars worldwide, which was the most that a silent film had ever made. The film was overall a huge success due to the many aspects that it included not only war, but also a strong sense of love and friendship. However, not only was it popular for its plot but for its excellent acting. Silent films require a different method of acting that is very different from modern day acting. This is because communication cannot happen through sound and therefore must happen visually or through text. Since people come to watch films and not read slide after slide of text, actors must describe the scenes with vigorous body movements and emotion in order for the audience to understand what is going on.

            The acting that is required to make a silent film differs greatly than the acting of a film with sound. This is because the movements and gestures in silent films are crucial aspects that allow the audience to become more engaged in the film. Even though there are occasional slides filled with words, the film’s story is mainly told through the many interesting and at times awkward forms of body language to communicate to the viewer exactly what is happening. This was my first silent film and I did not expect to be as engaged during the film as I was. The same way that Melisande and Jim fell in love without being able to speak the same language, I fell in love with this silent film through the amazing acting and simple yet enticing story.

Baby Face Film Analysis

            Baby face is about a young woman named Lily who starts off working miserably for her father since she was 14. Her father dies in an explosion, however she does not cry and she sets out to the city with her African American friend Chico. Using Nietzsche’s philosophy, she starts using men she finds to help her get what she wants. She slowly moves up the chain of command, seducing each man she finds to help her get a promotion, more money, and ultimately everything that she could ever want. Lily ends up falling in love with a man named Courtland Trenholm and when Trenholm goes bankrupt she refuses to lend him the money he has given her and runs away. However, after she gets on the boat she decides to run back to him to find he has shot himself, and while on the ambulance Lily cries out her love for Trenholm as he opens his eyes and smiles at her.

            This film was made in 1933 during the great depression which had a negative impact on the film industry. Baby Face was the film that made movie studios push the production code into effect for decades to come.  The original version of Baby Face was rejected by the New York State Censorship Board, so therefore many sexual parts of the film had to be cut out before it was allowed in theaters. One would be surprised after watching this film that there are no explicit sex scenes such as those found in modern day films. These parts of the film were sexually suggestive, meaning that one knew that sex was involved but did not get to see the act of intercourse. Even so, Baby Face caused controversy as to what should be allowed on screen.

            Baby Face was one of the first films to cleverly introduce a unique way of using women’s appeal to men as a way to success. In the film Lily was not always the seductive girl that she became known to be by the end of the film, it was thanks to a shoe cobbler named Nietzsche who convinced her to use her beauty to her advantage. Lily did not fully understand what he meant until she tried out her new found “powers” on her first subject. After her first successful attempt at seduction and landing her a job, Lily figured why not continue to do the same thing to every man that can give her what she wants. Lily’s bitterness was established when she was young thanks to her father who introduced her to the world of easily manipulated men. This bitterness that she developed allows her to go through with these acts of seduction regardless of the consequences and the people that are face consequences as well due to her actions.

            However as with all films the character develops some type of problem that prevents them from continuing their actions and in Lily’s case, it is love. The last man that she seduces is Trenholm, the man at the top of the chain. She has everything she could ever want but her valuable possessions are threatened she flees but realizes she is in love with the man that she had just left for dead. Falling in love not only gave her the guilt ridden conscience she has been lacking throughout the film, but causes her to sacrifice everything she has gained for the man she loves leaving her with nothing. In one of the two endings to Baby Face, Trenholm and Lily end up living together in the same place that Lily was raised in, with Trenholm doing manual labor to make a living. This is quite ironic because everything that she did to move up in the world and “climb the corporate ladder” ended in the same place she started out, at the bottom of the ladder. Love was her weakness and her bitterness did not hold through until the end.   

            There are many morals and symbols that can be found in this film, however the one that should first be discussed is love. Love is what caused Lily to fall at the very end. However, it is that same love that the film shows as Lily’s happiness because even though she is back where she started, she is much happier this time around. In the film it may be so, but in reality, as much as want to believe it, the fact is that love does not conquer all. Happiness is not based on solely love as the film suggests. The film also suggests even the bitterest woman such as Lily can fall victim to love.

            Lily’s character development throughout the film was a bitter girl who knew nothing of the world to one who knew more than she could handle. When Lily set off on her journey to the city, she was confident and believed that nothing could stop her. This attitude that she had at the beginning was what allowed her to move up the corporate ladder so quickly. Her personality was strong and she could handle the obstacles that were sent her way. However once she got to the top, she became more at ease and allowed her emotions to partake in her life. This was because she was at the top already; she had everything so therefore she felt comfortable enough to let her vulnerability show, which was what led to her downfall. Her bitterness faded and before she knew it she was in love. The way that Lily ended up was ironic, cheesy, and a bit predictable, yet somehow very satisfying.

I found Baby Face to be a refreshing and very interesting movie. The way that Lily seduced all the men made her seem very sure of herself. Coming from a background of prostitution, thanks to her dad, she used those skills as well as the Philosophy that Nietzsche had taught her to succeed in the city and move of the corporate ladder very quickly. Being able to see the uncut version was a privilege, being able to see everything that was found to be unacceptable for the audience at that time to view. The cut version seemed bland and uninteresting compared to the uncut version. The uncut version did not hide the truth, making the film both more realistic and engaging as a whole and allowed me to enjoy Baby Face for its boldness and well told story.

Public Enemy Film Analysis

            Public enemy is a black and white film that follows two childhood friends named Tom Powers and Matt Doyle. When they were young they performed petty crimes such as stealing watches. However when they grew up, their crimes got worse, such as killings and robberies. Tom and Matt join a bootlegging beer business and Tom becomes leader soon after showing how vicious he can be. Tom’s family includes his widowed mother and his older brother Mike Powers who does not approve of his actions. This does not stop Tom though as he rises in the gangster world and eventually dies after confronting another gang in a shootout.

            Public enemy was a film that set the standard for all the criminal films after it. The way that the film portrays criminals was original and films after it followed this outline. The story of criminal kids turning into criminal masterminds has been seen in many modern day films. Public Enemy creates a very realistic situation in which these two criminals came to be. Even though these two little kids in the beginning were poor and had to resort to stealing to make money, the audience is not made to feel pity for them. Tom and Matt’s personalities are strong, they get what they want when they want, and these personalities carry over to their adulthood. The characters in the film had very firm beliefs and throughout the film did not stray much from their values. They were criminals and this did not change throughout the film. There were many people who tried to influence them such as Tom’s brother who was in the military and came home to find that Tom is a criminal. He greatly disapproves of this and tries very hard to get Tom to stop, resorting to anger and violence towards Tom’s stubborn criminal ways. Tom has his values and his brother his, the two are dead set in what they believe however they are still brothers and at the end of the film you can see that the two still have an unconditional love for each other. Even though they do not show their love at all, you can see Tom’s brother worry when Tom does not come home. Tom’s mother is a very loving of Tom as well, she seems to understand the situation but does not respond as strongly as Tom’s brother does but rather tries to be nice and motherly to Tom with hopes that he will do the right thing, which he has no intention of doing whatsoever.  Perhaps Tom’s mother knows that she does not have enough power to convince Tom to do anything, after all Tom’s brother couldn’t even make Tom budge. In the end, it was Tom’s stubbornness and “gangster” ways that caused his downfall.

            There are no morals immediately present throughout the film because after all this is a film about a gangster doing criminal activities that end up dead. The obvious lesson that the film is trying to teach basically, don’t do criminal activities or else you will end up like that guy, dead. That’s the obvious one, however another can also be made, which is to stay true to your beliefs and what you want to do. Even though Tom knew what he was doing was dangerous, he still continued through with his endeavors and set out to do the most dangerous things, such as taking on multiple gangsters of another gang in a shootout. This was what Tom wanted to do, no matter who told him otherwise, he stuck with his actions and followed through until the end. This was who he was throughout the film and this was who he died as, and I am sure he did not regret it one bit.

            There are two famous scenes in this film that are worth mentioning. The first is “the grapefruit scene” where Tom shoves half a grapefruit into this girlfriend’s face. The reason this scene was so famous was due to the fact that Tom was being genuine because he had been wanting to do this same thing to his wife, but decided to do it as a scene instead to rid him of his temptation to do it to his wife. The other scene worth mentioning is the ending scene where Tom comes out shot and before he falls to the ground he says “I ain’t so tough”. These two scenes are unique to the film in that they show how much genuine work was put into the film.

            The lighting in the Film was exquisite as it captured moments in the film with emotion and a particular feeling appropriate to the scene. Such as the scene at the bar, the light that entered the darkness outside from the bar captured the moments of suspense.  The lighting from the buildings in this film was all very noticeable due to their positive impact on the atmosphere of the film.

Overall the film is an original film that created the basis for all criminal films after it. Public enemy does a great job at both entertaining the audience with the excess amounts of shooting and gangster activities as well as show a great plot with actors that play their part extremely well. I enjoyed Public Enemy for its action and undying stance on what it tries to portray, a man who does what he wants for the reasons he believes and does not change his mind no matter what anybody tells him. A bold and original film, Public Enemy is a film to be remembered.

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