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June 1994


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 23 Jun 1994 11:26:00 -0600
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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In reference to the discussion of of B&W in SCHINDLER'S LIST, I don't
believe I've seen anyone mention that Spielberg and his photographer (whose
name unfortunately escapes me) attribute at least part of their decision to
go with b&w to the influence of Roman Vishniac's great book of photographs
of Eastern European Jews (A LOST WORLD may the be title?).  That still of
course begs all the various esthetic/political et al. issues that have been
raised, but it may introduce a new line of thought.
In addition, in relation to blacks in BIRTH OF A NATION, has anyone considered
the relationship between Griffith's film and Keaton's THE GENERAL?  In all
prints I've seen of the latter, there are only one or two shots at the be-
ginning of the film that show any blacks at all.  From THE GENERAL as a whole,
one would never know that the Civil War had anything to do with slavery!  On
the other hand, the Brady-like images of the battle at the film's end seem
to owe a debt to Griffith's method of emphasizing what passed for historical
"veracity," while at the same time Keaton seems to mock BOAN in several ways:
notably the character of Annabelle, who is terminally dumb but not a fragile
flower of the old South, and in the scene where Keaton bravely snatches the
Confederate flag to keep it from falling, only to fall over himself--he had
been standing on the back of a cowering Southern officer.
The only excerpts of the Production Code I have at hand do not mention this,
but as I recall the Code forbade promotion of race hatred ala BOAN (but did
not forbid comical and demeaning portrayals of blacks).
BTW, in Keaton's COLLEGE, he plays a scene in blackface as he takes the only
job he could get to support himself--a waiter in a restaurant.  When his
race is discovered, he is chased out the the restaurant by the angry black
staff armed with cleavers and such.  The messages about race in THAT film
seem to me to be quite complex!