The Forgotten: "Monte Cristo" (1929)

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1929 was the end of silent cinema in France, the process of conversion beginning in earnest for the following year's releases. So what height of expressiveness had the French movies reached?

Quite a bit, if Henri Fescourt's epic three-and-a-half-hour-and-change adaptation of Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo is anything to go by. The novel is a cracking yarn, a bit of a warhorse perhaps but always reliable and dramatic, full of crimes, revenges, outrageous coincidences and spectacular reversals in the best nineteenth-century tradition. One would expect a movie to be, at best, bold and operatic, at worst, staid and stagey. But Fescourt, who had already made a vast version of Les misérables (1925), manages to combine the best of commercial cinema's dramatics with the innovations of the impressionist filmmakers, to create something strikingly modern.

Stop me if you've heard this before: hero Edmond Dantès is maligned by a fellow sailor, snitched on by a romantic rival,
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