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In Youth, Beside the Lonely Sea (1925)

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Thomas Bailey Aldrich's poem is dramatized in triptych. In the center panel, a young man muses on the seashore where mermaids beckon, then he walks through the woods, accompanied by ... See full summary »
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Thomas Bailey Aldrich's poem is dramatized in triptych. In the center panel, a young man muses on the seashore where mermaids beckon, then he walks through the woods, accompanied by Titania's fairy brood. He's then shown as a grown man, walking a city street where temptation and dissolution teem. Those images from his youth keep him away from sin. Then, alone in a bed sit, we see him old, with a bottle, despair, and fading memories. The fairies try a last visit. The words of Aldrich's poem appear above and below the triptych. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Charming but not really "avant-garde"
5 March 2016 | by See all my reviews

This is a charming little film and the use of the three-way split-screen is interesting. The cine-poem is also interesting as a genre but there are many more distinguished examples than this. I have however seen this film listed from time to time as "experimental" which it really is not in any very meaningful sense.

The split-screen was perfectly common as a device by this time and three-way splits had been used, notably for telephone calls in several films (of which Lois Weber's Suspense 1913 is an early example). It is certainly unusual to have an entire film in triptych but, as the film historian Kevin Brownlow points out in his discussion of this film, the device had already been used by the Italian company Ambrosio for tourist-travelogues (a not unimportant but hardly an especially "experimental" area of film-making).

It bears no real relation to the use of a three-screen cinerama effect for the final scenes of Napoléon by Abel Gance in 1927, which is far more ambitious (but not in the event entirely successful) undertaking in a film that could be described as "experimental" (I would refer the word "innovatory") in many other ways as well.

And, with regard to the content, this is a sweet little film but it is entirely conventional in its treatment of what was (even then) a rather old-fashioned poem.


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