I suppose I would be willing to read your essay as well, lubitsch, if for no other reason than to try and understand how you see the world (of film). Maybe, some further substantiation of your views on Borzage's work would also help me understand, how you can be so seemingly unmoved and unimpressed with so many of his films. However, although I can read and understand German, probably your jargon would be too academic for my linguistic abilities.
Within the past few months, I have also viewed a number of Borzage's films (albeit, only about a dozen) -- spanning from Street Angel
and 7th Heaven
and I'll Always Love You
-- (for the sheer pleasure and joy of seeing the films), and to me these films came across as one of the most coherent of bodies of work that I have seen come out of the Hollywood studio system. In their way, they were also amongst the most lovely and humane films that I have ever seen.
The romantisicim that is present in Borzage's films (and yes, we can laugh and shrug at it today, and maybe it is melodrama and maybe it is naive... and, so what!?) is, as I see it, the purest distillate of what the movies were all about in those days. If I had seen even more of Borzage's films, I also think that I might be able to support Tryavna's suggestion that the style of MGM of all the studios complemented Borzage's style and worldview better than any other.
As I viewed these films, I tried to imagine myself back in the times in which they were made and premiered. It was the middle of the depression, and here Borzage was making Little Man, what Now
, showing his audience a young couple going through all the same privations and deprivations in the not distant past in Germany, and he shows how this young couple perseveres through their love for each other. And, he paints the world that they move in much in the way that Dickens told his stories, with a wonderful gallery of grotesque characters. There is not a dull moment in this film, and we see how the male protagonist is at the brink of giving up many times, but he is always saved by the knowledge that his wife (and child) is there with him, and counting on him. Of course, we get a wonderful happy ending that brings us back to the dedication at the beginning of the film. I can think of few films more cathartic than this one (especially given the times and circumstances in which it was made). And, actually, it is as relevant today, as back when it was made.
is just about as impressive. Here Borzage depicts the friendship of three men, who have fought in the war together, and again he depicts how ordinary people rise to the challenges of their day, and do their best to do right, and sometimes succeed and sometimes fail. We also get another beautiful Borzagian love story, and again, maybe the romanticism is played to the hilt, but what I see Borzage doing is to communicate to the screen (in this and in most of his love stories) the very euphoria that belongs to anyone in love. So, if the films come across as "overly" romantic, and stretching the limits of the believable, it is because to anyone in love, the world becomes a slightly different and magic place, not necessarily dictated by what is plausible and what makes sense in conventional story terms. And, Borzage's ability and stylistic hallmark (as I see it) was to superimpose this quality of the romantic onto the entirety of his stories -- love as a prism held up to the world.
I think this is particularly clear at the end of Seventh Heaven
. Honestly, if one views this film as a realistic depiction of the world, then it will provoke the most hysterical fits of laughter. Yet, if we follow Borzage up that "ladder that leads to the stars," then the film becomes a sublime representation of the state of being in love, and the ending is transformed into the most natural of conclusions.
And I agree, we can level every cynical objection that we please at History Is Made At Night
(just as with the ending of Seventh Heaven
); in fact, every bone in the body of this film's script is an outlandish insult to a rational mind. But here again I think that the point is that to lovers the impossible is commonplace, so yes, French chefs and maitre d's skip across the Atlantic, walk into the first and the best restaurant and turn it into the talk of the town over night, and just as surely, jealous husbands run steamliners into icebergs, and naturally the lovers overcome it all. This is storytelling, and if we are invested in the beauty and charm and fun of the performances and the story at the heart of the film, then we have no problem with these slight liberties that are taken with what is plausible.
I am sorry, lubitsch, I suppose I am rambling on about things that you know very well about Borzage's films, having seen all of these and many more. My arguments are not well constructed, as I am sure yours are in your paper, but you see, the interesting and important thing at the heart of this discussion to me, is not so much whether Borzage was a great or good or mediocre director (I know the answer to that question, just as surely as you do). The interesting thing is, why would we sit down and view his films at all -- to write a dismissal of the majority of his films? To be moved and inspired to go on with our own lives? And, or, for the joy of it all?
One thing I do envy you, and that is that you have had the (in my opinion) wonderful opportunity, time and leisure to sit down and see 25 of Borzage's films. That indeed should be an opportunity open to all of us.
(Sorry, I suppose I am overly hostile toward you, lubitsch, but you kind of did come out guns blazing yourself