The Rapture of the Silents

The Artist

a film directed by Michel Hazanavicius
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Blu-Ray $35.99; DVD $30.99

Hugo

a film directed by Martin Scorsese
Paramount, Blu-Ray $44.99; DVD $29.99

The Phantom Carriage

a film directed by Victor Sjöström
Criterion Collection, Blu-Ray $39.95; DVD $29.95

The seduction of silent cinema is the seduction of a form as unique as opera or kabuki, a peculiar way of organizing one’s attention. It is a perpetual learning how to see, and a way of coming to the truth of one of Emerson’s observations: “The eye is final.” But there is the further peculiarity that what you see takes place in a world no longer there. Here are cities since reduced to rubble and rebuilt, stretches of countryside by now turned into interstates and strip malls, glaciated wilderness that has probably succumbed to climate change—and of course the faces of those now long dead, something too easily taken for granted but that haunts movies from the start. The inventors of the medium were already thinking about recording the living as a future consolation for their survivors.

This article is available to subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:

Print Subscription — $74.95

Purchase a print subscription (20 issues per year) and also receive online access to all articles published within the last five years.

Online Subscription — $69.00

Purchase an Online Edition subscription and receive full access to all articles published by the Review since 1963.

If you already have one of these subscriptions, please be sure you are logged in to your nybooks.com account. If you subscribe to the print edition, you may also need to link your web site account to your print subscription. Click here to link your account services.