Sight and Sound - 11/01/2000
"...It's Griffith at his most lyrical -- and sentimental..."
Description by OLDIES.com:
D. W. Griffith reached a pinnacle of expressiveness in this tender yet tragic tale of love and suffering in the seedy Limehouse district of London.
Richard Barthelmess gives a sensitive portrayal of a Chinese man who travels to England to spread the pacifist teachings of the Orient, but it is Lillian Gish who illuminates the screen. In this, the most heart-rending performance of her career, she plays a fifteen-year-old street urchin who longs to escape her miserable existence. Emotionally scarred by the torment and neglect of her abusive father (Donald Crisp), she collapses in the shop of the lonely and disillusioned "yellow man." As he tenderly nurses her back to health, an unspoken romance flowers between them, awakening in each of them feelings of love they thought themselves forever denied.
In some ways, Broken Blossoms was Griffith's response to critics of The Birth Of A Nation, an effort to clear himself of lingering charges of racism. However, cinematic convention forbade physical intimacy between the two races. With this in mind, Griffith took what might have been a bold interracial romance and turned it into something more ethereal: a form of cinematic poetry that engages the viewer through subtle gestures and changes of expression, meticulously choreographed and gracefully assembled.
Featuring Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess, Donald Crisp. This edition was digitally remastered from a 35mm print at the correct projection speed, with color tints and a new score by Joseph Turrin, recorded in digital stereo.
This strangely beautiful silent film from D.W. Griffith is also one of his more grim efforts; an indictment of child abuse and the violence of western society. An idealistic Asian (Richard Barthelemess) travels to the west in hopes of spreading the Buddha's message of peace to the round-eyed "sons of turmoil and strife." Instead he winds up a disillusioned, opium-smoking shopkeeper in London's squalid Limehouse District. Down the street, a poor waif (Lillian Gish) suffers horrific abuse at the hands of her boxer father (Donald Crisp). When fortune delivers the battered girl into the Asian's tender care, a strange and beautiful love blossoms between them, a love far too fragile to survive their brutal environment. Griffith directed with his unique blend of poetry and realism, and Miss Gish delivers a typically first-rate performance as the girl; the result is a work of art that's both eloquent and crushing. The film was originally presented with color tinting and a musical score composed by Griffith, both of which may vary in different video and film versions.
An early silent film (with a music track) which is quite effective in its almost barren simplicity. A poor Chinese man struggles to free the woman he loves. She is an abused girl living in the poor East End district of London and even when the Chinese man hides her by dressing her up in Asian costumes, his desire to help her proves useless in the face of her father's brutality.
Essential Cinema |
Love Story |
Theatrical release: May 13, 1919.
BROKEN BLOSSOMS was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1996.
Louis F. Gottschalk wrote the original score for the film.