Tokyo TIFF 2017: Beggars of Life (US – 1928 – Silent)

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for Cinetalk.net

*** The 30th Tokyo Film Festival offers a string of restored films either on archival 35mm prints or restored in the digital format***

William A. Wellmann’s 1928 silent film, Beggars of Life, starring Wallace Beery, Louise Brooks and Richard Arlen, was restored with funding from The Film Foundation using original elements preserved by The George Eastman House.

Beggars of Life was the film that followed Wellmann’s own Oscar winning, Wings (the very first ‘Best Film of the Year’), right toward the end of the silent era. At that time Paramount Studios forced his hand into adding some sound. The talkies just arrived months earlier marking the end of an era. But the restoration, silent with music accompaniment, stands with the director’s original vision.

A vagrant (Richard Arlen) comes across a young woman (Brooks) who just killed her abusive stepfather. They try to escape to Canada by hopping freight trains and meet with a group of Hobos, led by a dubious character (Beery).

Beggars of Life is a pretty good piece of plain but effective film making with numerous highly enjoyable sequences dramatically and technically. Editor Alysin Shaffer , a Wellmann regular in that closing era of silent films,  provides a perfect pace. Shot just prior to the Stock Market Crash and great depression, it features numerous actual drifters in supporting roles. As it was often the case, the director stays simple and persuasive but with a sense for details, drama and humor that makes him an often overlooked but major figure in quality Hollywood film making.  In 1933, Wellmann would revisit the post Crash ‘Hobo world’ in Wild Boys on the Road to even better results.

Beggars of Life  boosts great performances by the leads,  notably  Louise Brooks, mostly in male attire through the whole movie, right before she went to Germany to carved her name for good in film history  (with Pandora’s Box and Diary of a Lost Girl) thanks to director G.W. Pabst .

 

Screenings:

The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo Cinema 1
10/29 16:00- (81min)

The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo Cinema 1
11/03 11:00- (81min)

 

 

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