Back to the ol’ silent grind, I guess. This time, we have The Docks of New York, a Josef von Sternberg picture starring George Bancroft and Betty Compson in a story of love (what else?) on the waterfront of the biggest city in the world. It’s simple, and simply told, but what it is not is simply filmed. This is where great silent pictures set themselves apart from the rest, in either story or in cinematography, and this film has some great visual talents it makes use of.
It may have just been the great quality print I saw, rather than the often muddy prints I’ve been watching of silent films, but I found the film to be beautifully photographed. The film felt so much more alive than other silent films I’ve seen recently; you could notice tiny details in performances and visual images that are often lacking in silents. The film just felt so much more sophisticated than other silents of previous years; truly, this was the time where silent pictures were reaching their heights of artistry. The story end of the film, however, doesn’t have much going for it; stuff happens, but there really isn’t a solid plot that’ll engage you. At the very least, you’ll be carried through the short running time, which is good enough I guess, but anyone looking for a little more substance in this area may be found lacking. Still, the story will undoubtedly touch your heart by the end, so there’s that at least.
Some of the events that happened had me questioning the veracity of the film, but as a whole, it didn’t make too big of a difference. I was too enamored with the way the film was shot to write it off based on a few concerns with the story. You might have a different mindset than I did, though, so fair warning. Still, you could do a whole lot worse than this one. You’ll at the very east be entertained through the run of the picture, so in that regard, the film is a success; the bonus visual aesthetic is just delicious icing on the cake. Check this one out if you can; it’s short, it’s great, and it’s worth it – you got nothing to lose.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10