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USA 1916
Directed by
D.W. Griffith
177 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages

D.W Griffith was the single most important pioneer of the American movie industry, perhaps the film industry tout court. Not only did he instigate modern film editing and camerawork and originated many of the cinematic devices still used today, he also was the initiator of the mega-success to mega-flop trajectory familiar to Hollywood, indeed of the whole more-is-less problem that afflicts Hollywood film. His follow-up to The Birth of a Nation (1915), the first American blockbuster and first million-dollar grosser, is an very uneven illustration of man's inhumanity to his fellow man and the redeeming power of love.

Griffiths intercut four disparate stories across 2500 years of history that barely seem to fit the film's title and that stylistically swing from mid-budget melodrama (the 'modern' tale) to lavish spectacle (the Babylonian story) of the type that Hollywood would only come close to again with the sword-and-sandal epics in the 60s. Impressive staging and high concepts do not in themselves make for a good film, no less in 1916 than today, and the film failed, ignominiously ending Griffiths' career. It is of interest today principally for its technical achievements (which remain impressive), even the most sympathetic viewer being likely to struggle with the length and incoherence of the film as a whole (the Hugenot section being the worst offender in this respect), aspects which sadly detract from its considerable virtues.




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